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September 12, 1997

Kindness of Strangers

Stories of the kindness of strangers and where it leads. Also, the unkindness of strangers and where that can lead. All of today's stories take place in the city most people think of as the least kind city in America: New York.

Prologue

Brett Leveridge was standing on the subway. A guy comes walking down the platform, stopping in front of each passenger and delivering a quiet verdict: "You're in. You're out. You, you can stay. You — gotta go." Most people ignored the guy. But Brett found himself, against his will, hoping the guy would give him the thumbs up, and when the guy does, it's thrilling in a very small way: a tiny kindness from a stranger. Brett's story also appears on his website Brettnews, and you can see a graphic recreation of it in our comic book How to Make Radio. (5 minutes)

Runaway

In 1940, Jack Geiger, at the age of fourteen, left his middle-class Jewish home and knocked on the door of a black actor named Canada Lee. He asked Lee if he could move in with him. Lee said yes, and in Lee's Harlem apartment, Geiger spent a year with many of the great figures of the Harlem renaissance: Langston Hughes, Billy Strayhorn, Richard Wright, Adam Clayton Powell. This is what Geiger ended up doing because of that experience.

A side note: It turns out there's a movie in which Canada Lee takes a white teenager under his wing and counsels him, as he did for Jack Geiger in real life. The film is called Lost Boundaries. (11 minutes)

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