“What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done that no one knows about?”

In 2010, Redditor joepaulk asked, “What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done that no one knows about?” Here are some replies:

1) [Name deleted] wrote, “I was day tripping to Vancouver from Seattle and stopped in for lunch at a little cafe. From my window, I saw a young teenage girl out in the cold, squatted down in a closed-up business’ doorway, holding a small bundle in her arms. She was panhandling; people were mostly walking by ignoring her. She looked just broken.

“I finished up my meal and went outside, went through my wallet and thought I’d give her $5 for some food. I got up to her and she was sobbing, she looked like she was 14-15. And that bundle in her arms was a baby wrapped up. I felt like I just got punched in the chest. She looked up, putting on a game face, and asked for any change, I asked her if she’d like some lunch. Right next door was a small QuikTrip-type grocery store; I got a can of formula for the baby (very young, maybe 2-3 months old.), and took her back to the cafe though I’d just eaten. She was very thankful, got a burger and just inhaled it. Got her some pie and ice cream. She opened up and we talked. She was 15, got pregnant, parents were angry and she was fighting with them. She ran away. She’s been gone almost 1 full year.

“I asked her if she’d like to go home and she got silent. I coaxed her, she said her parents wouldn’t want her back. I coaxed further, she admitted she stole 5k in cash from her Dad. Turns out 5k doesn’t last long at all and the streets are tough on a 15-year-old. Very tough. She did want to go back, but she was afraid no one wanted her back after what she did.

“We talked more. I wanted her to use my phone to call home, but she wouldn’t. I told her I’d call and see if her folks wanted to talk to her; she hesitated and gave bad excuses but eventually agreed. She dialed the number and I took the phone, her Mom picked up and I said hello. Awkwardly introduced myself and said her daughter would like to speak to her, silence, and I heard crying. Gave the phone to the girl and she was just quiet listening to her Mom cry, and then said hello. And she cried. They talked, she gave the phone back to me, I talked to her Mom some more.

“I drove her down to the bus station and bought her a bus ticket home. Gave her $100 cash for incidentals, and some formula, diapers, wipes, snacks for the road.

“Got to the bus, and she just cried saying thank you over and over. I gave her a kiss on the forehead and a hug, kissed her baby, and she got on the bus.

“I get a Christmas card every year from her. She’s 21 now and in college.

“Her name is [name redacted] and her baby was [name redacted].

“I’ve never really told anyone about this. I just feel good knowing I did something good in this world. Maybe it’ll make up for the things I’ve f[**]ked up.”

2) Sykotik wrote, “This is a story about my father.

“I’m awakened by my mom around 1:30 am. ‘Get up, there’s a fire, we have to go outside,’ she says. I’m freaking out, but I don’t smell smoke. I assemble outside with my mother and younger brother and sister. Down the street a townhouse in the same row as ours is engulfed in flames. I don’t see my father around, so I ask my mom.

“‘He went to see if he could help,’ she says. I can hear the nervousness in her voice, my father is known to be rather bold. The story as it was told to me as an adult goes like this:

“My father arrives after the fire department and learns that a man is alive inside, possibly lost. The FD won’t go in after the man because they do not feel that it is safe yet. My dad is like, ‘F[**]k that,’ and (clad in only his long-johns) breaks a window and enters the home. He finds the man at the top of the stairs, badly burned and unable to walk. He carries the man down the stairs and out the front door. The firemen treat my dad briefly for smoke inhalation and the cops take a statement.

“The man he carried from the house died after a week in the hospital, but his family was grateful that he had a chance to say goodbye. The county awarded my dad a plaque and Comcast gave us free cable for a year. He never talks about it, and it was so long ago that no one he knows is aware that it ever happened.

“About a week ago my 5-year-old asked me if superheroes were real. I told him the story of the day his grandfather was a superhero and I almost couldn’t finish. I hope that one day my son will feel that kind of pride in me.

“tl;dr: My dad pulled a guy from a burning building, and no one really knows.”

Sykotik added, “It’s funny, he thinks it was just the right thing to do and nothing all that special. The reason he won’t talk about it is he went in there bare chested and ended up with the guy’s skin stuck to him; it’s not an easy thing for him to think about, I suppose.”

3) piney wrote, “I used to work at a ‘low-income’ housing place in Seattle when I was in my early 20s. There were a lot of sad sacks in residence — ‘former’ alcoholics, addicts, prostitutes, and other down-and-outers. There was a older guy that I would rarely see around the building. He seemed nice enough, but he was reclusive and didn’t speak English very well. More often you would hear him mumbling to himself in Polish. One late afternoon, he came to my ‘office’ (a large closet) and asked if he could come in. He sat down and produced a flask of vodka and offered me a sip. (I declined, and then he pulled the bottle out of his jacket and filled up the flask! I thought that was peculiar.) I asked him how he was doing — you know, lightweight conversation, because I’d barely spoken with him before. Anyway he started talking to me about his life. His parents, his youth, his experience fighting in WWII, his work for the Polish underground against the Soviets, which got him locked up in a Gulag twice, once for nearly 25 years. He’d had a girlfriend, who died during his first stay in prison. He suspected that she’d been killed. When the USSR collapsed, he was released and came to the US because he had no family. He picked Seattle because ‘it sounded far away,’ but he really missed Poland. And he drank — a lot. He came to my office at about 4:30 in the afternoon, right before the end of my workday, but I ended up staying until almost 9pm to listen to him. It was pretty fascinating to hear him open up like that. The whole while, of course, he’d been sipping from his flask, and was pretty sloshed (but still able to handle himself) by the time I left. I walked him to his room. I thanked him for the conversation, and he looked into my eyes, and put his hands on my shoulders and said, simply, ‘Thank you’ and sat on his bed. The next day, his neighbors told me I was the last person he ever talked to. After I left, they said, they heard him crying in his room, but no one bothered him because crying isn’t an unusual sound in a low-income housing residence like this. He just … died … in the night. No foul play, no suicide. Just … the end. I was pretty young, and it hit me really hard, but I’m glad he had someone to talk to at the end.”

4) jpohnbc5 wrote, “When I lived in the city, an older lady about 90 got her apartment robbed in my building. They went in and stole all her cash and took some valuables that she had. She did not have a bank account, so the thieves took about 30K — the lady’s life savings. She was afraid of being evicted for the apartment because she wouldn’t have the rent money and did not want to end up in a state-run nursing home. I called the landlord and paid her rent in full for the rest of the year, five months worth and told the landlord not to tell her it was me. I also had groceries delivered to her once a week for the next two months until she had some money saved from her social security checks. I never told anyone what I had done for her, and I don’t think she even knew my name because the apt building had about 50 apartments in it. The landlord was the only one who knew and he wanted to tell her what I was doing, but I told him that I would deny it. I did not want her to feel indebted to me. She posted a letter in the lobby of the building to thank whoever had helped her. I took the letter down and kept it. The landlord still writes to me every few months to tell me how she is doing. She is still living in the apartment seven years later. I never told any one.”

5) icandothat wrote, “I heard a fight outside my apartment one night. I looked outside and saw the fight but couldn’t tell if it was a man beating up a woman or a teenage boy. (I couldn’t find my glasses.) I called 911 and told them what I saw and while I was on the phone the man started dragging the other person around the corner of the building. I told the operator that I couldn’t see them anymore and that I had to go. Contemplating bringing a weapon with me as I threw on shoes and pants, I decided it would be best to go bare handed. If the other guy had a gun or something, he would have already used it to subdue his victim. I ran outside and quickly scanned the area and bam there he was on top of this woman. He had stripped her and thrown her clothes on top of an 8’ hedge. He was about to rape her. I hollered at him to get up and told her to come stand behind me. It was January and she was naked and freezing. I quickly took off my coat and gave it to her, never taking my eyes off the guy. Now at the time I was in very good shape and probably looked a lot tougher than I do today; this was nearly 20 years ago. The guy looked like he might try to fight me, but I told him that I had called the cops and that they’d be here any minute and that his best bet was to get in his car and get the hell out of there. (I got his license plate as he drove off.) The first thing the girls says is ‘Can you get my underpants, please?’, so I climbed the fence next to the hedge and got all her stuff. I let her go into my apartment and lock herself in the bathroom while we waited for the cops.”

6) thagirion wrote, “When I was working as a summer job in our local hospital, I got paged to a room by a patient. Usually what they wanted for me to do is shift their position or get them some water or something similar. This time the old lady asked me to come to her and take her hand. She told me, ‘I don’t want to die alone.’ I assured her that she would not die alone. After a few silent moments of her just staring at me [and?] smiling, she said, ‘Thank you, good bye,’ and then she died.”

For More Information: joepaulk, “What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done that no one knows about?” Reddit. 2010

http://tinyurl.com/kpyemx8

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