All too often, taking the time and effort to show a stranger kindness or make their day better in a mundane situation seems like too much trouble, or not worth the hassle—but that’s only because we can’t see the ripple effects our actions have.
Not too long ago, YouTuber Yaakov Cohen took to the social media platform to share one such story he had heard—where a conversation ended up tipping the scales in a life-or-death situation 20 years down the road.
The story began in conflict, where a soldier in Israel was shot and left for dead. Bleeding out on the side of the road, it wasn’t until one driver passed by and noticed the soldier was alive that someone stopped and gave him a chance at survival.
The driver rushed the soldier to a hospital trauma ward, where the doctor confirmed the dire situation and immediately called for blood transfusions, starting the procedures in hopes of saving the man’s life.
The doctor told this good Samaritan who had driven by that there was nothing more he could do for the patient.
But it was only minutes after the driver had left, that the soldier’s parents arrived at the hospital—and the chief surgeon gave a miraculous update. The soldier would survive and recover.
Shaken that they had just missed their son’s savior, the mother resolved to find him. Having nothing to go on, his mother could only phone everyone in her circle to get the word out, and then she put up signs all over the neighborhood, including at the grocery store she owned and worked at.
Months passed, and there was no news. But the soldier’s mother kept the signs up well into the next year.
Then one day, a woman stepped into her grocery store. She was only in town for a short time to visit friends.
The soldier’s mother was manning the cash register, but when the woman spotted the sign hanging next to her, she pointed it out in shock.
It was describing her son.
“Who put up the sign?” she asked the soldier’s mother. When she confirmed she had put it up, the woman was completely in disbelief.
“I can’t believe you are the mother of the soldier my son saved,” she said. “Look at me—you don’t remember me?”
The soldier’s mother just shook her head and asked if they had met.
Then the woman told her that 22 years ago, she came into this grocery store in tears. She was pregnant, and as much as she wanted to have the child, she felt hopeless and that she had no way of keeping the baby.
She already had two children, and she and her husband were struggling financially. But the couple who owned the shop, seeing her distress, sat her down and listened to her troubles. They even offered financial advice and helped her create a budget. They only encouraged and supported her, never once telling her what she should choose.
She started crying as she told her story, and tears were rolling down both of their cheeks as she told the soldier’s mother that the talk they had that day allowed her to keep her child. The shop owner had saved her son.
She gave her a powerful hug, and said, “you saved my son, and in return, my son saved yours.”
The act of kindness she and her husband had extended toward the young mother over two decades ago had come full circle—without either of them even realizing it.
The story was told to Rabbi Paysach Krohn, who over the years has compiled people’s personal stories into books (with people and location names changed to preserve privacy). The two mothers meeting again was a miracle, and it shows us all that the everyday gestures of kindness we extend toward others have more far-reaching effects than we could possibly imagine.