Illustration for article titled The Time You Saved Someone From Despair
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Listen, everyone’s depressed right about now. It’s justifiable. Instead of continuing to wallow in our collective misfortune, I’d like to use this week’s Pissing Contest to reflect on the people who’ve helped us in other periods of hardship. When you really down in the dumps, who was there for you? How did they pull you out, or help you get what you needed? This week, the Jezebel staff wants to hear all about the time someone saved you from your despair. Read into that any way you’d like, and drop those anecdotes in the comments below.

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Now, let’s take a peek at last week’s winners. Here’s a short collection of the most generous things a stranger has done for you. If you love these, definitely go back and read the rest of the comments from last week—they are truly something.

Luckiest, why haven’t they made a movie about you yet:

My parents discovered I was gay at the end of my senior year of high school, right before graduation. My father beat me nearly unconscious and I literally ran out of the house with only the clothes I was wearing. I snuck back in twice to get some things, but it barely amounted to a suitcase’s worth of stuff.

I stayed with a friend and when my father figured out where I was, he came to drag me outta there and I guess beat me again. My friend’s dad was bigger and had guns (the south, y’all) and told my father in no uncertain terms he should never lay a hand on me again. Hero #1.

I had been accepted to a not-quite-Ivy-but great school in the East, and somehow it never occurred to me that my father would mess with that. I had been in touch with my new roommate during the summer, and got the arrival date from him, and drove myself to Massachusetts in my beater car. When I showed up to campus, I went to freshman check-in and...I wasn’t on any of the lists. They directed me to the registrar’s office, where I discovered that my father had somehow taken back the tuition payment, all of it except the first small deposit, and I couldn’t register until I paid, roughly $20,000 (late ‘80s).

I had held it together all summer, worked two jobs, and told myself my new life would start at college, and all of that just slammed me emotionally at once, right there in the registrar’s office. They sent for a guidance counselor and I sobbed and spilled my story.

After what must have been close to two hours, the counselor walked me up to financial aid and went into the head FA guy’s office and closed the door. When he came out, the FA guy called me in and asked me to verify what the registrar had said....abusive, homophobic father, attempted religious conversion therapy, stalking, harrassment, and the tuition. He then told me to go back down to the registrar’s office and pick up my schedule, and to do well that year.

I never got a bill for freshman year tuition, and he called me back in April and told me my grades qualified me for a full scholarship.

I graduated at the top of my class, and got a full ride to medical school. I fund two college scholarships annually; one through a gay organization and one for that college. I never spoke to my father again, but I did help my mother leave him.

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LuckyMc44, this rules:

I was traveling through Europe at the end of the study abroad, so I was lugging a huge suitcase from France, to Belgium, to Italy, to Greece, to England. Upon my arrival in Brussels, a man approached me and offered to carry my suitcase up the stairs. I declined, having learned in my time in Europe that men who offered to carry things for me usually expected something in return. He tried to grab it anyway, but I took it up the stairs myself, with this guy following me all the while, trying to convince me to stay at his place, to come to dinner, oh, we’ll be just like brother and sister. I got to the bus stop with him still yakking at me, me still firmly declining, and I was starting to get nervous because I thought he was going to follow me onto the bus.

Finally, an older woman asked me where I was going, and I quietly told her the name of my hotel. The next bus that came along wasn’t my bus, but the woman boarded the bus, spoke with the driver, and came back out and told me to get on, that the driver would see me safely delivered. She and another man blocked the guy from getting onto the bus after me. The driver kindly explained to me that he would finish the route, and then he would take me to my hotel. So he did. He drove a city bus way the fuck out of the way in order to get me where I needed to go.

I cannot tell you how grateful I was to both him, and to the woman who helped me out in the first place. It’s difficult to be a young woman, alone, and possibly in trouble she couldn’t find a way out of, and their kindness and generosity of time and of spirit made all the difference in the world to me.

chairofbowlies, I was hoping for a few stories of tiny kindnesses, and you did not disappoint:

This is such a small thing, but it still sits with me. About 20 years ago, I was flying home with my garbage boyfriend after I’d brought him to meet my family for the first time at Thanksgiving. I now realize it was an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship, but at the time I just suffered constantly. On the plane, I was distressed — my boyfriend was giving me a performative silent treatment to punish me for...what, I don’t know — and the flight attendant put her hand on my shoulder and asked if I was okay. I tearfully nodded, and she walked away, not without glaring at my boyfriend, and then just kind of checked up on me the rest of the flight. It was compassionate but also just professional.

It sits with me because for the first time, I felt like someone was seeing and taking seriously my emotional suffering. And I’ve never forgotten it. I try now to pay it forward just by checking on people, particularly if I notice them sidelined with their own distress.

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dunnaeknow, hell yeah:

I got really sick in my 20s and it was showing all signs of being cancer. I didn’t have health insurance (pre-ACA recent college graduate) so I applied to my state’s low-income health care coverage. I was working as a waitress at the time so my reported income was juuuuuust low enough for me to qualify but it was pretty iffy. The first time I applied, I got denied. Second time: denied.

I went back for one last interview to appeal the decision (desperate times...) and basically looked the woman in the eyes and whispered, “I most likely have cancer and don’t have insurance. I need you to help me.

I got my acceptance letter 2 days later in the mail and that woman saved my family and me from financial ruin (chemo + radiation alone were well over $100k and that didn’t even include any of the consults, surgeries, or follow up). Thank you, random government worker.

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Now it’s your turn—drop those stories in the comments below.

Senior Writer, Jezebel. It's facetious. My debut book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands, is out July 21.

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