Today at work I had an asthma attack.
My asthma has been pretty great for the last 10, 13 years, but today I was forced to remember how scary it can be. We were having a meeting in a very cold room, and by the end of it I could barely breathe. I had a break scheduled then, and in desperation I asked someone walking out of the office alongside me if they happened to know anyone in the floor who had asthma. She went “No, sorry…” before pausing and then smiling “Oh wait, I do!”
I told her I needed an inhaler and she led me to her locker. When we got there, she didn’t just let me use her inhaler, she told me to go ahead and keep it, since she had another one at home. I didn’t know how to thank her. Part of it was the fact I was still wheezing and trying hard to breathe, but most of it was just pure gratefulness.
I took my break then walked back to the floor, where I was duly surprised at the concern various people showed, asking me if I was okay, if there was anything they could do. I didn’t know what to do, but I could feel my eyes tearing up.
A couple of years ago at my last job, I was having one of the worst days of my life. I had been in a terrible argument with someone I cared about immensely, and on top of that, my usual despair and sadness about having to pretend to be a guy and live as one had been turned up to 11. I was having trouble doing anything. I could barely walk, and focusing on not causing a scene at work was the only thing holding me together.
Part of my duties were to walk around the building, and make sure the equipment stored in all the rooms was clean and working properly. I was walking through a hallway when one of my coworkers, someone I wasn’t really close to, called me over and asked me if everything was all right. One look at my eyes told her enough, and she asked me to follow her. She led me outside and I numbly sat by a chair, and she cheerfully talked to me as she prepared something at a stove. After a couple of minutes, she handed me a warm cup of tea, and smiled at me. I carefully sipped a little bit, and felt something inside me relax slightly at the taste of it. She told she had to go back to work, but gave me a few kind words before leaving.
I walked over to a patch of grass away from the building where I could sit unseen. With each sip of the tea, the hopelessness, grief, and loneliness started draining out of me.
I sat there and cried as I felt my coworker’s kindness and love fill me on a day when I had been feeling utterly alone.
It was a bright May afternoon. In some ways, it was the best day of my life so far. I’d gone over to an aunt’s house, and after some experimenting with a few clothes and some makeup, my cousin and I left to the mall to go shopping. It was my first time going outside dressed as a girl. I was ecstatic. It really felt like the start of something new.
It was also one of the most difficult days of my life. I’d walked into one store, and noticed a bunch of clerks starting at me and whispering to each other as I picked out some clothes to try. In another store, the lady in the changing room gave me an openly cold and hostile look as I tried to give her a few blouses I wanted to try.
I lost my nerve and nearly ran out of the store, trying to hide my shame. I’d become well acquainted with those feelings in the next few months, as I noticed how many people stared when they saw me, and how unwelcome I’d feel in so many stores.
On that day though, after rushing from store to store, trying my hardest to not let it get to me and ruin what should be a wonderful day, I walked into Forever 21. It felt like finding shelter in a storm. No one gave me a second glance, and when I took a few tops and dresses to the changing rooms, the girl just gave me a friendly smile, “yes ma’am”-ed and led me to a room I could use to try the clothes. I could barely register her casual kindness because it felt so out of place in that day.
I’ve also become familiar with this feeling. I’ve had many days when, after trying a dozen shops where nothing fit and store clerks treated me with coldness or open hostility, I stepped into a Forever 21 and suddenly relaxed because I suddenly felt welcome, and was treated with respect.
I don’t do advertisements, but I want to mention the name of the store where this happens, because it’s made such a difference. Walking into that shop that day gave me my first glimpse at what my future looked like, being seen as myself and treated with dignity. It gave me strength, and that shop girl’s loveliness made a huge difference to me.
I have many more stories like these. Strangers, friends, family… no matter who it’s from, there are countless little acts of kindness and grace that have given me strength and hope, and made me feel loved at times when all those things feel impossible.
I try to do the same whenever I can. I don’t think my life will be important enough to make a huge impact in the world, but when I get the chance, I try to do whatever I can for others. I have been lucky to have met many people with kind and lovely hearts, and it’s one of my top priorities in life to try to pass on the kindness I’ve been shown, in whichever way I can. Even if it’s just one little thing, I try to do it because I know how much of a difference it can make to the right person.
What is a particular moment of kindness you have experienced? Something that really made a difference for you? Something that showed you the love in another person’s heart? What was the last thing you did for someone else? I’d love to hear about it!