Gratitude for Two Strangers

Author: Karen Copeland


Dear Strangers who bought my child a doughnut,

Even though it was several years ago, I can still remember you.

We were stuck in an airport due to bad weather. We were tired, and my children were restless. I was on my own with them, and after a hectic weekend full of visiting with numerous relatives, we were all ready to be home.

And then it happened. Despite all his best efforts, my son began to experience a significant challenge. On the surface it would appear to others like a child having a temper tantrum. I can assure you it was much more than that. I sprung into survival mode – desperately trying to help him manage and cope. It’s not easy in those moments. Because other eyes are upon you, and you wonder about the thoughts behind their stares. Knowing my child and how he responded, I knew what I had to do. My approach was different than other parents may try with their child, but I knew this would work best. We spent a great deal of time getting to a calm state, and when we finally arrived, he asked for a doughnut from Tim Hortons.

The three of us walked over to the coffee kiosk and I ordered the doughnuts. Sitting down on a bench, I felt exhausted, but glad we had averted something much bigger. Until I heard “this isn’t the one I asked for” ~ and I knew the risk of escalation was now upon us once again. Looking up, I saw the lineup had grown to over 20 people!

I gathered up the courage to approach you. You were near the front of the line. I asked if I could give you some money to buy the doughnut. You offered for me to go ahead of you in line – I declined and simply asked if you could purchase the doughnut and bring it over to us. And you did. And I could have cried. Because you did so without any looks of judgement.

I remember saying to you “I can’t thank you enough. What things appear like on the surface aren’t always exactly what is going on, and you have no idea how much you have helped us today.”

It would have been easy for you to look at me like I was the mother “giving in” to her misbehaved child. You could have refused to purchase the doughnut and told me to go to the end of the line. You could have allowed that look to come across your eyes that told me you disagreed. But you didn’t. And because you didn’t, you threw us a life preserver that assisted us to make it through the rest of our day.

Not long ago, I was in an airport again, waiting for my flight. There was a mom standing in line at the Tim Horton’s and her children were running around playing. Mom was calling quite loudly for the kids to come stand beside her, to no avail. Two ladies sitting behind me began to comment and said “well guess what she is in for if she can’t even get her kids to listen to her now. Guess what will happen when they are teenagers”.

And I thought of you. It might have seemed like such a small thing to do for a family. But it wasn’t, it was such a big help.

I silently thanked you again, grateful it was you who was in the airport that day.

Join Champions for Community Mental Wellness on Facebook


  1. Yes often it is the very small things that people do for us that can make such a big impact. The other day I was going to run into the library to return some books. Someone noticed that my daughter was still in the car while I ran this quick errand and they offered to take my books into the library so they would be returned. When I got back into my car my daughter was so happy that this young lady was so nice to us. It warmed my heart to see how appreciative she was of a complete strangers actions and it was a great opportunity to talk about how that made her feel and why it is kind to go out of our way to make for other people have the same feeling she was experiencing

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your comment, Nancy.

      I recall having a conversation with a school administrator a few months ago. We were talking about the challenges families face when their child is struggling. I reflected that often, when we see something as a big problem or challenge, we may feel like we need to match that with a big response or strategy. But that feels overwhelming, so we don’t. The reality is that it is those small acts, those seemingly insignificant gestures that make the biggest difference of all. Because they come from a place of empathy, a place of curiousity. And in a world that is full of judgement, it feels so good when someone sees beyond that, reaches out and gives us the most important gift of all. Hope.


    • After Hunter’s terminal diagnosis, I felt so lost. I met a mother who lost her son to birth injuries in March of 2005. She and her husband have Thomas’ Random Act of Kindness each March 9th to honor Thomas. I knew that if she could find good in her son’s very short life, then I could as well. I am so grateful that our Hunter is still with us. This is the fourth ROK day I will participate in with our Hunter. I love reading about all the acts of kindness taking place around the world in Thomas’ memory. This mother brought me such a sense of peace when my heart was aching. That was a grate of act of kindness on me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I could (and probably should) have written the same story about a woman at a vacuum store. She was so kind to my son at a time when all we were experiencing were looks that said bad kid, bad parents. Thanks for sharing Karen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “That might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuffI remember the most.” -Russell Disney’s UP Movie That is one of my favorite quotes. Since our son’s terminal SMA diagnosis, we’ve learned to adapt. We cherish every moment, no matter how insignificant those moments might seem to the outside world. We’ve had many people come into our lives. Some of these people do something so small as to make a kindhearted comment about our Hunter, and offer a smile. These comments and smiles are gifts, like the donut. They might seem small, or boring, or insignificant, but they are not, and they will not be forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s