09/24/2014 12:08 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2014

An Elevator Ride Made Me Braver and Kinder

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I was sad and crying recently but that's not what this blog post is about. I am writing to and about the stranger in the elevator who saw me sad and crying and was kind enough to ask if I was OK. His question alone made what I was upset about dissipate and also changed the course of my thoughts instead to how nice a man he must be to be brave enough to ask an upset stranger if they're all right.

Coincidentally, this very scenario happened to me days before the elevator incident, except I wasn't the cryer then. I was on campus and walked by a girl wiping tears away. I felt badly for her. I knew nothing about this girl or why she was crying, but at the very least I hoped she'd be okay. I, however, didn't tell her that. I walked by, as if I never saw a person there at all. I, unlike the stranger in the elevator, was not brave enough to offer her an "Are you OK?"

I'm not condemning myself or others for not asking total strangers we come by if they're OK when we notice that they're obviously upset. I'm just wondering when we got to a place where we're afraid to do it. At least, maybe you're not afraid, but I was. I was admittedly afraid to ask that girl a really easy question. I was afraid of her thinking I was nosey, and I was afraid of her feeling like she had to tell me anything about herself that she didn't want to. I was afraid of how it would make me look if I offered her a simple kindness. I was so afraid I let my fear overcome my desire to be kind to her.

I have a number of soapbox stances, but one of my most adamant beliefs is that what humans lack most these days is a desire to care about one another. Everyone needs help sometimes -- I don't know a single person who has never needed anything from anyone. This doesn't make us a land of enablers. This doesn't make us weak. This doesn't make us co-dependent. This makes us human. It is perfectly human for us to need, and it should be perfectly human for us to give. There are a lot of expansive issues we could resolve if people merely thought of others. And maybe we can start with simply reaching out to sad strangers.

Girl on campus is not the only upset stranger I've ever come across and she won't be the last. But I can say that she will be the last one I will have ignored. And to the man in the elevator who with a simple gesture changed my day and my perspective -- thank you for asking me if I was okay and thank you for helping me be braver... and kinder.