Acts of Kindness in 2015

December 23, 2015

1 comment

Like most New Yorkers, I’m very aware of the fact that we come across as a cold bunch of cosmopolitan, fast-talking creatures that think they’re smarter than the rest of the world.

Because of this stereotype I go to great lengths to be very polite when someone, usually a tourist, stops me on the street to ask directions. I’ve found that Macy’s, Herald Square is a favorite destination.

Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan

I’ve also experienced “The kindness of strangers” to quote Tennessee Williams, on a number of occasions. Like many of us, I’ve tripped and fallen on Manhattan’s sidewalks. We have 12,000 miles of cracked, uneven sidewalks so this is not an unusual event. Recently, a young lady walking behind me went down so hard I thought she’d broken every bone in her body. Not so. She got up and ran past me sobbing and said, “I’ve got to get to work.”

When this happened about four or five people stopped and were ready to help.

I’ve had similar experiences in the past. Once in a torrential downpour a young lady handed me an umbrella and then rushed away. I called out, “You’ve forgotten your umbrella!” She replied, “No, I haven’t. I gave it to you because you really need it.”

A torrential rain coming down

I was equally surprised by another incident. I was buying flowers outside a Korean grocery store and found that I didn’t have $9.00 in cash. I offered the guy my card, but he said he didn’t take cards. A young lady overheard this, pulled out her wallet and paid for the flowers. I told her that Chase was a block away and I’d give her the money at once. She refused so I thanked her about eight times.

How flowers are sold in Manhattan


We’re impatient which means we talk fast and get to the point in record time. If a question is too wordy, we may interrupt. This is not a rude move it’s simply a timesaver. New Yorkers are always in a rush.

We’re loud and vocal especially when crossing a street as a pedestrian or in a car as a driver. I’ve driven in Manhattan and have really never accepted the fact that people on the street yell at you. On the other hand, drivers yell at other drivers all the time.

We get exasperated if someone at the supermarket, subway booth, bank or movie line takes forever. It’s a good idea to organize one’s thoughts ahead of time so that everything runs smoothly.

We greet and meet after a fashion. For example, “How are you” is just a greeting. No answer is expected. It’s on the same page as “Have a nice day” which is heard everywhere.

We talk to our dogs as if they’re human. Passing through Gramercy Park recently, I heard a young lady say to her dog (who wasn’t taking care of business), “Hurry up, I’ve got a dinner party.”

We’re good guys underneath our flinty exteriors. I once helped a non-English-speaking European get to Brooklyn on the subway. I got an answer for him from a cop. Then I took this lost soul to the right stairway and told him how far to walk on the platform. As I was gesturing he took my hand and gave me a charming European-style kiss.    


  • There are 254 food pantries and soup kitchens in Manhattan
  • Food pantries provide bags of food for 3 to 5 days of meals
  • Soup kitchens prepare hot, healthy meals for people in need
  • NYC has 119 free and affordable health clinics for its residents

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

1 Response


December 31, 2015

As a resident of the largest west coast Canadian city, Vancouver, I can relate to many aspects of this blog. Your food pantries are our food banks, generously supported by our citizens, New York traffic equals ours, your dog population in the big city ditto. For several years now many of us have adopted a practice that is compatible with your “New York good guys”, we call it “pay it forward”. A kind act rendered in the midst of a busy, fast city given randomly and without expecting anything in return is a nudge to the individual to do a kind act in return down the road. Thank you for this insightful glimpse into your New York citizenry.

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