Stronger Together

| Minneapolis, MN, USA | Awesome, Coworkers, LGBTQ

(It is November 11th, 2016. I’m openly lesbian, and don’t “pass” for straight due to my unique hair and androgynous dress. Unfortunately, there’s a huge rise in hate crimes after the election, and I have been shoved, called names, and had my car vandalized so far. Even though I am just starting out as a lawyer, I can’t stop these things happening. I am talking about the hate crimes issue with a colleague.)

Me: “…so there’s been a lot more anti-minority and anti-gay harassment lately. People feel emboldened, you know? So do you think you could walk me out of work today?”

(Colleague #2, who is a new immigrant from a conservative south Asian country, stops after walking by and hearing this. He smiles.)

Colleague #2: “Do you know what I would do? I would… tell them ‘oh, you’re harassing this gay person? Would you perhaps now like to meet my .38 special?’”

Colleague #1: *describing himself* “Or do you want a six foot six Norwegian carrying a bat?”

(I knew they were joking, but it meant a lot that two very different people felt so strongly about protecting me!)

Driving Home The Kindness, Part 11

| Colorado Springs, CO, USA | Kind Strangers, Transportation

I have just gotten off work and am headed out for the night when I realize my keys are not in my purse, but locked in the trunk of my car, because I had needed something out of there earlier.

I call my fiancé to bring me my spare but to my horror he is having troubles of his own and his car won’t start. He tells me he’ll come for me when it gets straightened out.

After thirty minutes of waiting, a coworker notices me impatiently waiting and asks if she can help. I tell her my situation and she asks if I want a ride. I say yes. Then I backtrack, as I live 40 minutes from work by highway. I can’t ask her to do that. But she tells me it is no problem. She will take me home to get my spare and then take me all the way back to work to take my car home.

I can’t believe her kindness and thank her profusely. Not only did she do everything she promised, she also stopped to grab my fiancé on the way so he wouldn’t have to wait around with his broken down car.

We repaid her with a full tank of gas and many thank-yous!

Driving Home The Kindness, Part 10
Driving Home The Kindness, Part 9
Driving Home The Kindness, Part 8

The Boss Is As Nice As Pie

| Orem, UT, USA | Awesome, Bosses

(Just before I go in to work, my mom calls to let me know that my uncle – who practically raised my father – has just passed away. Said uncle lived over 1,000 miles away from where we are now, so we’re still trying to work out who will be able to attend the funeral and all those other practical details while mourning. Having just recently gotten married, I’d used up all my time off for the honeymoon, and haven’t accrued much more. Once at work, I manage to catch my boss alone.)

Me: “I just wanted to let you know, my uncle passed away. We were very close to him – he pretty much raised my dad – so I would like to attend his funeral, if at all possible, but it’s out of state. I know I don’t have a lot of time off, but—”

Boss: *cutting me off* “I’ll process your compassionate leave with HR. Don’t worry about it. Normally, I don’t think they cover uncles, just immediate family and grandparents, but I’ll take care of it. So tell me about him. Your uncle.”

Me: “Well, he was in the military for a bit. Then he became a firefighter, and a cop, and later a police commissioner. He taught my dad everything he knew about sports, and he was one of the best men I’ve ever met. He has three kids, and his wife…” *at this point, I’m fighting back tears, because I don’t want to cry in front of my boss*

Boss: *noticing my struggle* “So I love pie. It’s awesome.”

Me: *choking back a laugh* “Pie is awesome. My favorite is pecan, but it doesn’t love me back. Stupid nut allergy!”

Boss: “That stinks! But seriously, pie! It’s the greatest creation known to mankind. Except rhubarb pie. That stuff’s gross!”

Me: “Seriously! And strawberry rhubarb is worse; why waste perfectly good berries, tainting them with rhubarb?”

(This continued for a few more minutes, as he cheered me up talking about pie, then puppies, then any number of other happy things. He also followed through and talked to HR, getting me enough time off that I was able to drive with my father and support him through the funeral. Best. Boss. Ever!)

A Sweeter Seventeen

| TX, USA | Criminal/Illegal

(Shortly after entering high school I commit a crime. I do not hurt anyone or anything but the severity of my actions still requires my arrest. Shortly after that I am sent to a juvenile detention center for a suspiciously short amount of time and, afterwards, I cannot help but feel as if I am being neglected or forgotten. My time passes either at home or in various government facilities when I become “too much to trouble to deal with” as I am passed from caseworker to caseworker and probation officer to probation officer. Any attempts to learn more about my situation is met with either another phone call or severe punishment. I learn, quite quickly, to keep to myself as the days turn into weeks which turn into months with no change to the situation and never any answers. I understand the severity of my crimes and that I must atone for them; however, I feel that something is amiss. The following takes place as my mother brings me to yet another probation officer at which point I am fully expecting to be ushered quickly in and out of with the same ol’ spiel of: “You’re a danger to yourself and others.”, “Can’t you see you’re hurting your parents?”, “Why must you continue to fight the system?” and so on.)

Probation Officer: *waving at us without looking at us* “Sit.” *we do as he says* “Name and age?”

Me: “Um, it’s [First Name] and, uh, seventeen.”

Probation Officer: *flipping through my file and still not looking at me* “Okay, well, what we’re going to is just continue with…” *trails off and flips more frantically through my file then suddenly stops and looks at me with a frown* “Wait, wait, wait. You are [My Name] and you committed [crime], yes? Birthdate is [my birthdate], right?” *I nod and he mumbles to himself* “So, what’s going on here?” *suddenly he looks me right in the eyes* “You! What do you do all day? Are you going to school? Are you in contact with your old friends? Do you visit [Town] anymore? What do you do to occupy yourself?”

(At this point in my life I am so unaccustomed to people, even my own family, talking TO me instead of AT me, let alone even acknowledging my existence, that I am completely startled into silence.)

Probation Officer: “Well?!”

(I’ve never acquired the knack of lying to people so I take a deep breath to get over my shock and what I say next is entirely true.)

Me: “Um, well, uh, no. Um, after I was arrested I went to juvie for a couple months and while I was there the school called an assembly of all the parents, teachers, and kids and told them what I did. They didn’t outright say my name but I was the only student to subsequently go missing afterwards so that was rather like adding two plus two. Um, after that either my friends didn’t want to talk to me or they just weren’t allowed. And, uh, I don’t have access to a phone anyway, so I couldn’t call ’em even if I wanted to. We don’t have the Internet or anything like that either, so, um, usually I just hang out in my room talking to me, myself, and I. My curfew is seven but I don’t ever go anywhere or do anything. I just come out of my room every now and again for a bit of food or maybe to go to the bathroom. I have a radio to keep me company but, um, that’s, well, that’s it. I just, well, I just don’t do anything.”

(The entire time I’ve been talking the probation officer has been flipping through my file pausing every now and again to read something. As I finish talking he looks at me with absolute fury.)

Probation Officer: *nearly shouting* “Why are you here?!”

Me: *cowering* “I, I don’t know. I just do what I’m told. I…”

Probation Officer: *cutting me off and speaking in an angry tone* “What I’m seeing is that you have been on probation for two YEARS. During that time they’ve sent you to juvie for a measly two months which is really just a slap on the wrist considering the severity of your crime, they’ve had you on an ankle monitor, and in and out of psychiatric wards for reasons that aren’t solid, you haven’t been in contact with any of your old friends, you haven’t been in trouble with the law since, you’ve moved over 300 MILES away from [Town], and you haven’t been to school in that entire time. Are you f***ing kidding me?! Why are you still here?! There is no reason for this s***! *grabs a stamp from his table, slams it onto my papers, and nearly tosses them at me then with a weary sounding voice* “Charges are fully dismissed. It will be wiped from your record. Just get out. You don’t belong here.” *looks at my mom* “And for god’s sake, get the poor girl back in school!”

(We left and although it took me a few years to fully move away from home and get up on my own two feet I’ll always remember that probation officer as the one who, in my eyes, saved my life even if he took a rather odd path of getting there. I’ve always appreciated what he did and try to show it by being exceptionally helpful and kind to anyone I meet.)

Fright Night Becomes Girls’ Night

, | Germany | Awesome, Coworkers, Popular

(I’m moving to Germany to study and it’s been a weird and hectic month, with me looking for an apartment in the city I’m going to. There are no rooms available on campus and every apartment I like online is only available after I visit the place and talk to the rent company personally. I finally manage to find a room in a weird private dorm that doesn’t require any of that. At work I happily share this with my coworkers.)

Me: “…it’s not very big. Actually it’s really small, but it’s already furnished: it has a bed, a table, a chair, a tiny kitchen, a bathroom, and a wardrobe, and even curtains for the window.”

Coworker #1: “This is nice, but isn’t it too expensive?”

Me: “It’s all right. [Amount] per month, but the furniture, electricity, heat, and Internet are included. And even TV, which I won’t be needing. It’s cool. And after some time I can always find something better, if I don’t like that.”

Coworker #2: “Where is it? Do you have to travel to the university a long time?”

Me: “No. It’s nearby. That’s what I also like about this place. Aww, wish me luck!”

Coworker #2: “How are you going to find it, though? Do you have any idea where it is?”

Me: “I’ll have to improvise, won’t I?”

Coworker #3: “Oh, I have an idea!” [Coworker #4, who is from the same city I’m moving to] is visiting me next week. You two should talk! Maybe she could help you out!”

Me: “Okay, I’ll ask her for some pointers…”

(I’m not that optimistic, since I’ve seen the lady a couple of times, but she wasn’t assigned to my project and we just said hi to each other every now and then. Fast forward to next week, when Coworker #3 is off work, but calls me on my cell right after clock-out.)

Coworker #3: “Hi, [My Name], we won’t be able to go out so you could talk to [Coworker #4]. She’s not feeling so well and we have to get her back on her feet so she’ll get home safely on the weekend.”

Me: “Oh.”

Coworker #3: “Wait, she asked to talk to you on the phone!” *hands over the phone*

Coworker #4: “Hello, [My Name]? Are you moving to [City] in about a week?”

Me: “Hi, yes, I am, and I was hoping you could show me around once I get there… Please?”

Coworker #4: “Oh, please, I’ll meet you right at the central station when you come in, and I’ll help you find everything! No problem at all!”

Me: “Wow, this is so nice of you, thank you very much! And you don’t even really know me…”

Coworker #4: “Nah, I’m sure we’ve met. I just can’t place your name with a face right now, but this is all right. We’ll work it all out when you get there!”

Me: “Thank you! And many thanks to [Coworker #3]! Safe flight back home and I guess I’ll see you in about a week!”

(Fast forward again. I catch my very early flight, somehow manage to catch a train from Berlin to the city I’m moving to, and when I somehow get reception, I text Coworker #4 the time of my arrival. Even though she’s at work, she gets out two hours early and meets me in front of the station, where we greet each other, I thank her for meeting me, then she asks me my living situation.)

Me: “This is the thing… I just spoke with the rent office. They can’t give the room today, because all of their agents are fully booked. They asked me to come in at three pm tomorrow.”

Coworker#4: “Ah, these idiots. Why didn’t they give you an appointment when you rented the thing?”

Me: “No idea. I tried to set one a couple of times, but no response. I don’t know what to do now. Do you know any place where I can stay for tonight and tomorrow? But not too expensive…”

Coworker#4: “It’s pretty easy, isn’t it? You’re coming to my place and you can crash on my couch, if you like.”

Me: “But, but…”

Coworker #4: “I don’t bite! Come on, you can relax a bit, tell me where your room is so I can find it on the card, and then we’re going out to find it. Then I’m showing you the city! And later we’re watching a movie! Girls’ night for your first night here!”

Me: *teary-eyed* “You’re literally one of the best people on the planet.”

(We found the building the room was in, she showed me the city, and we ate at a neat tiny noodle place that is now one of my favourite places. The next day I went to fill the huge protocol for the room, then I made a list of things I needed. She fished a bunch of stuff out that she didn’t need — like old tea mugs or dry food jars — then she called her boyfriend to ask him to do the same. Both of them gave me a huge carton full of dishes, cutlery, and a bunch of crap I still use to this day. Then they drove me to a big supermarket so I could get some of the other things I needed plus some food. Finally, they drove me to the apartment building and helped me get all the stuff inside. The next day she brought me a prepaid mobile card. To this day they are one of my best friends here. They are still together and now have an adorable little boy. And a couple of months ago she heard accidentally that I didn’t have enough cups and brought me another box full of kitchen stuff. I’ll never be able to pay her back, not just for the things, but for all the help and for her warm heart.)

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