A post over at the Art of Backpacking got me thinking about encounters with strangers. Unfortunately, in a city like Shenzhen it was difficult to find kindness in strangers--it was usually overshadowed by the behavior of China's least friendly city. However, one encounter still stands out (there was also another encounter much earlier in my adventure in Shenzhen).
I was on my way home and had to switch buses. As I was used to having a metro card, I didn't check to ensure I had enough cash on me to take the 2 Yuan buses. Of course, I didn't have my metro card that day. As I got on the second bus I searched for my change and came up with only 1 Yuan. I was sure that I must have a coin stashed in a pocket of my backpack, but only came up with two quarters left over from my trip to the US. The only other money I could find was a 50 Yuan note, which was no good on an exact change bus. I also knew asking for change for a 50 from the passengers would be futile (a 5 or 10 would be easier). (On a slightly related note, I once had to pay a ticket girl with a 100 Yuan note for a 2 Yuan bus ticket and was amazed that she had enough change.)
One passenger saw my plight and offered me 1 Yuan. She was very kind and spoke decent English. She was also surprised when I thanked her in Chinese and began a small conversation for the twenty-minute ride home. I gave her the two quarters that were in my backpack. She told me I should get a metro card, and I explained that I have one but my wife had taken it that day.
I thanked her again as I stepped off the bus and felt better about Shenzhen for the rest of the day.