Last week was heavy—to say the least—for many people, in many parts of the world. In stark (and ironic) contrast, we celebrated World Kindness Day on November 13, a “global celebration dedicated to paying-it-forward” in the name of cultural connectivity, respect, appreciation and solidarity. Now is a time more than ever to seek diverse perspectives and be kind and open-minded toward all people, no matter how dissimilar. 

Here at AFAR, we wanted to take some time to reflect on the most generous help we’ve ever received from a stranger abroad, in hopes that these stories will remind us—and our entire AFAR community—that there is still plenty of humility out there, and that in the end, it’s our differences that make this world a vibrant place. 

“When I was in Cairo, while trying to find a street address in a quiet neighborhood, I found myself walking in circles amidst a web of crisscrossing streets. A middle-aged Egyptian man noticed my confusion and approached me, offering (in very broken English) to help. He not only pointed me in the right direction—he walked alongside me until I reached my destination to make sure I found it.”—Jill Greenwood, Director of AFAR Experiences 

“The first time I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I decided to take a local bus from the airport to my hostel. I obviously looked extremely lost and completely out of place, because a young woman came up to me and asked me where I was headed. When I told her, she replied, ‘Come with me.’ She took my hand, led me off the bus, waited with me until another bus came, and went with me all the way across the city to the correct stop. She was headed to work that morning and spent at least an extra hour of her morning commute to make sure I made it to where I needed to be and made it there safely.”—Tara Guertin, Director of Photography 

“My wife and I were a couple days into a multiday hike in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. We’d left our backpacks at a trailhead to lighten our load while we did a short hike on a side trail into the Valle Frances. The valley was spectacular, but when we returned to the main trail, we found that someone had stolen our sleeping bags from our backpacks. We spent the afternoon fuming as we hiked the remaining miles to where we would spend the night, and finally arrived at the refugio having basically given up on humanity. We sat in the dining area, met a poet named Scott from Chicago, and told him our tale of woe. He had a box of Gato Negro red wine, and poured us each a glass. It tasted like human kindness.”—Jeremy Saum, Executive Director

“Two girlfriends and I arrived late one night at the Brussels airport from Ireland. This was in the days before the Euro—there wasn't an ATM available at the airport and we only had Irish Pounds. We thought we were going to have to spend the night in the airport when an Irish man offered to share a taxi with us into the city. He paid for the cab, dropped us off at our hotel, and wished us a good trip. The next night we walked into a random restaurant, and the man was sitting there by himself having dinner. We all sat to eat together, and we were able to repay him for his generosity the night before.”—Jordan Robbins, Corporate and Donor Relations Development Office of Learning AFAR

“In Jamaica, one of the things I really wanted to do was go on a catamaran sail. I got my wish when a local yoga instructor offered her boat to sail with a 16-year-old Jamaican boy named Imani. Imani ended up spending the day with us as an unofficial tour guide, taking us to local attractions and great places to eat while he drove in front of our car on a motorcycle. Did he have a license? I’m not sure. But I’ll never forget how nice it was to experience Jamaica through the eyes of a local.” —Katie Galeotti, Marketing and Special Projects Director

“When I was backpacking alone in South America, I came across so much generosity. Friends of friends of friends welcomed me into their homes with open arms for days—even weeks—at a time. After a bout of food poisoning, a friend’s mom nursed me back to health as if she’d known me forever.  Another mama fed me constantly like an insistent grandmother. I always felt at home. That year taught me to be more trusting, and to never take people’s kindness for granted.”—Alex Palomino, Associate Photo Editor 

We hope these stories encourage you to think of times you’ve been shown generosity by a stranger and inspire you to remain curious, kind, and compassionate. 

>>Next: Living Our Values: A Letter from AFAR Cofounder Greg Sullivan