real life

'Gym Girl' shows us that the kindness of strangers still exists.

Have you ever asked a stranger for help? Have you ever offered to help a stranger?

For most of us, the answer is most likely yes to both. Because even though we live in our most fictitious era yet – where photos, video, and information are manipulated and don’t always represent the truth – we still believe in the core goodness in each other. And so we’re kind to complete strangers, and expect that kindness in return.

Because humans are awesome like that. It’s instinctive. Most of us would help a stranger if we were asked, and most of us believe that total strangers would help them. The Dalai Lama has often been quoted as saying, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” And even though exactly none of us are the Dalai Lama, kindness performed by humans towards each other is everywhere.

It’s not just about superhero kindness in the event of a fire or natural disaster. Or a celebrity reaching out to an ill child. It’s every day, domestic kindness. Where no one gets any acknowledgement, and no one seeks it.

For example, this week actress Madeline West spoke about the people who helped her in the moments after she was hit by a bus, who never came forward even though she wanted to thank them.

We’ve also seen this week the internet fall in love with Madeleine Westcott, aka, ‘Gym Girl’. The 19-year-old was at her Las Vegas gym when she overheard what she thought was a man harassing a woman for a date. So she did what any woman who believes in the sisterhood would do – she pretended to be mates with the woman, asking her “hey you ready to leave?”

Even though it turned out that the interaction was between an actual couple who were having a joke, the woman tweeted her gratitude to her would-be wingman:


And then are the stories that don’t go viral, like the ones we just go home and tell our partners, or text our mums about. But they nevertheless make our day.

The person who lets you cut in front of them in the taxi queue because you’re running late. The other driver who high-beams you to let you know your car lights aren’t on. The fellow plane passenger who literally saves your life – by lending you their phone charger. The parent in the grocery store who shoots you a sympathetic look as you whisper-hiss threats to your child.


Little stories of people giving each other their time, like these:

I was at the shops and about to go home when I saw this older woman looking lost. Turns out she couldn’t remember where she parked her car – or what it looked like. She said she had a son in the next suburb over, so I Googled his number and called him. He described the car to me, but I didn’t think she should drive home, so I waited with her until he arrived. I just told him that I hope someone helps me or my mum like that one day. – Lena

I wanted to order lunch in a cafe but I couldn’t read the menu behind the counter, because it was high up on a blackboard. The cashier was getting impatient, so the lady behind me read it out for me. I was embarrassed, but she was much more helpful than the person who worked there. – Ravi

The woman leaving the car space I was taking on the street stopped to give me what was left on her ticket. It was only a couple of bucks, but the way it made me feel about her, because it was such a nice thing to do, to get out of her car and come over, it could have been $50. – Des

The stories may not seem extraordinary, and they won’t go viral – but they do remind us about the kindness of strangers, giving us faith in them, and inspiring us to be them.

So the next time you need help, or see someone who does, remember that Mariah Carey was right – a hero lies in you.

LISTEN: After Jessie Stephens confesses she feels her gym is body shaming her, the Mamamia Out Loud team discuss the politics of body positivity.