The Oprah Magazine
Lean On Me Image Credit: The Oprah Magazine
Lean On Me Image Credit: The Oprah Magazine

Lean On Me

They don’t know you, may never see you again, and yet are happy to help lighten your load. The world is full of strangers willing to extend a little kindness—and you can be one of them.


A rogue car left Hamilton Cain’s wife broken. A park full of sympathetic souls made her whole again.

THIS MUCH WE KNOW: He came into Prospect Park around dawn, from the roundabout at the southwest corner. Perhaps he was a runner. Through a lattice of maples, he glimpsed a low black car swerving across West Drive, taillights glinting, and behind it a dark lump curved against the pavement, a darker stain seeping from beneath it. He trotted over, fumbled for his cell phone, punched 911.

Before sunrise on December 7, 2017, my wife, Ellen, had risen from bed in our Brooklyn apartment and suited up in fleece, eager for a jog. She never felt afraid: That early, the park was home to half-marathon trainers, older folks on walks, police cruisers idling along the loop. Everyone smiled as they passed, a two-finger wave.

On this day, she was listening to Pod Save America on her earphones—chatter about the allegations against Senator Al Franken, whether Doug Jones could pull off an upset in Alabama’s special Senate election. And then she was struck by a stolen Toyota driven by a teenager. He hit her from behind; she popped onto the hood, denting it, her scalp smashing the windshield, then tumbled off the driver’s side. The car’s velocity sent her skidding onto the pavement, gravel shearing her legs.

When the medics delivered her to the ER at Maimonides Medical Center, her co

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