dr. hua kuan and henry stiriman

The viral story of a dentist, a car, and paying it forward

A Bay area dentist is being hailed for his act of kindness while selling his car. Dr. Hua Kuan put his 2006 Acura TSX up for sale for $7000, reports NPR, but when he met the buyer, a college student named Henry Stirman, Kuan counted out the money and gave Stirman back a thousand dollars. Kuan told Stirman “good luck in college, Pay it forward.” Initially, people were skeptical of the story but it turned out to be true and the post went viral.

19-year-old Henry Stirman had been saving up for years to buy a used car. Besides being a student at UC Santa Cruz, he worked as a barista and many odd jobs over the years. Every dollar he made, he saved to buy a car. When he was looking through the car ads section he came upon a 2006 Acura TSX with 150,000 miles and gold rims. It was perfect for him.

The seller of the car was 35-year-old Dr. Hua Kuan. The Chinese American doctor got the car from his parents during his junior year in UC Berkeley. He drove that car for 14 years and he was ready to give up his beloved car after his friends told him he needed to upgrade. So he listed his car on Craigslist.

Stirman and his family drove up to San Francisco to meet up with Kuan over the car. They met Kuan at the police station to be safe. Stirman took the car for a test drive and decided the car was the car for him. Kuan and Stirman agreed to $7000 in cash but when Kuan was counting out the money, he pulled out a $1000 and handed it back to Stirman.

“We went over the paperwork,” Stirman told NPR. “And then he said, you know what? And he took out a thousand dollars, and he handed it back to me. And he said. I want to wish you good luck in college, and pay it forward in the future.”

Kuan gave back the money because “he had a good feeling about the hard-working Stirman.”

“To me, if I could give him the joy of having something that he didn’t expect to have, it would teach him about kindness,” Kuan told NPR. “And I think kindness is not something that you can learn; it’s just something that you can receive. And once you’ve experienced it, then you’re able and more willing to give it out.”

Henry Stirman said he was shocked over the gesture and wanted to hug him but couldn’t due to the pandemic.

“This is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said. “An act of kindness goes a long way, and hopefully at some point in my life, I can do something that’ll be remembered for the rest of that person’s life”


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