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A simple act of kindness changed the trajectory of a young man's life

Bill Price, circa 1971, shortly before his fateful encounter.
Bill Price
Bill Price, circa 1971, shortly before his fateful encounter.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.


In our day-to-day lives, there are moments when we get to decide whether we want to offer a helping hand. These gestures often feel trivial to us, but sometimes have the power to change the course of someone's life.

This kind of transformative experience happened to Bill Price when he was 15 years old.

It was the fall of 1972, and Price was attending a reunion for a summer program he'd taken part in a few months before. He remembers standing outside at the end of the day, catching up with friends. Eventually, everyone said their goodbyes — leaving Price standing by himself.

"And sometimes when you're alone, it's OK," Price said. "Sometimes when you're alone, you feel bereft and abandoned. And that's the way I felt then."

Nearby, another group of teenagers stood laughing and talking.

"I found myself wishing so much to be a part of that group," Price remembered.

One of the people in the group was a person named Wendy Westman. She and Price had only met in passing at the summer program a few months earlier. As Price stood there, feeling increasingly lonely, Westman turned around and asked him if he'd like to join her group.

"My life was transformed in that moment," Price said.

Westman reaching out sparked a realization in Price: He could offer that same kindness to anyone, at any time.

"It's so easy to see someone who seems left out and alone and notice them, say hello to them, be kind to them," Price explained. "And my realization was [that] that is a gift that we can all give."

Price went on to become a psychiatrist. A primary part of his job is being kind to his patients, listening to them and being attentive to their needs. Price attributes his understanding of the importance of kindness to that moment when he was 15 years old.

"To the extent that I'm a good person in my life today, it's probably due to Wendy Westman inviting me to join her group," he said.

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Autumn Barnes