Alone and Helpless: Encounters with Strangers

I locked myself out of my house the other night.

Suffice it to say, I found myself outside with a bag of trash and not much else. No phone. No key. No money. No roommate at home to let me back in.

A few different thoughts flew through my head at that moment. Should I walk a block over to my friend’s house and see if they were home? (But how would that help me?) Should I wait outside for my roommate? (But she would probably be hours.) Clearly, I needed to ask my landlord to let me back in. The only problem was, I wasn’t sure which gate led to his house. Which call button should I press?

I didn’t feel truly helpless until I took my best guess and a woman I had never seen before popped her head out of a window, clearly annoyed. As I stuttered my way through an explanation in my broken Korean, I found my hope quickly diminishing. How many people was I going to disturb before I located my landlord? Would I ever find his house? What if he wasn’t even home?

It was going to be one long night, and all because of a tiny little mistake.

Just then, the man who lives directly across the street from me called out to me in Korean, “Young woman! Young woman!”

Relieved to have an excuse to end the conversation with the annoyed woman, I turned towards him, “Yes?”

He asked me what was going on, and after I had barely half-voiced my confusion about where my landlord lived, he was on his way down the stairs to come show me the way. He took me around the corner to the entrance to the landlord’s house, pushed the call button for me, and explained the situation to the landlord in Korean.

Can I express how grateful I was in that moment?

This man who I had never talked to before, never even said the most basic greeting to, had taken it upon himself to intervene. He had witnessed the whole episode from his balcony and decided to offer his help. The kindness of strangers always touches me deeply, because it is so easy to ignore a stranger. I do it all too often. In the midst of the busyness of your own life, it is easy to overlook the needs of others, to just not get involved.

This man got involved. He chose to. And the two minutes he took out of his night to help me made all the difference to me.



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Elizabeth is a teacher, preacher, musician, and writer. She has a Master's of Divinity and a Master's of Music, which represent her two great loves: Jesus and the arts. A half-Korean, half-white American, she spent seven years in South Korea teaching English. Elizabeth is a perpetual learner, a deep feeler, and a pursuer of beauty and truth.

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