The Up Beat
By Amy Wong

The Power of a Positive Encounter With a Stranger

You probably know that doing good makes you feel good, whether it’s volunteer work or something for a friend. Being the beneficiary of someone else’s good deed also gives you a positive attitude boost, especially a random act of kindness from a stranger. That’s been my experience anyway.

My family and friends have done more for me than I can recount, and I am definitely grateful. But someone I don’t even know doing something nice for me? It’s uncomplicated and most of all, unexpected. And that’s what makes it some kind of wonderful and so restorative to the spirit, like a moment of grace. Or as Colleen Hughes might say, an encounter with an everyday angel.

Take what happened to me Wednesday night. I left the office at 7:45, almost an hour later than I’d planned, and I was irritated that I would only have time for an abbreviated workout. Then I walked out of our building onto 34th Street and got pelted in the face with little chunks of ice. Freezing rain? Hail? What the Weather Channel people call a wintry mix? Aaagh! And as usual, I had no umbrella.

I made my way over to Park Avenue and waited there miserably for the light, hailstones pinging off my unprotected head. Suddenly a voice came from my left. “Hey, do you need an umbrella?”

I turned. A guy in his mid-20s, rocking the hipster look—vintage-y jacket, skinny jeans, funky glasses. But he clearly had an old-school chivalrous attitude because he was already holding his umbrella over me. “That’s sweet of you,” I said, “but I’m okay. I’m just going to the gym across the street.”

“Then I’ll walk you there,” he said. He escorted me to the door of my gym, shielding me from the hail all the way. He left with his umbrella and my thanks. I watched him disappear into the night, my mood light and upbeat again. Why let little annoyances get to me when there’s a wonderful world out there with people like my umbrella guy in it?

Has a stranger’s act of kindness given you a lift? I’d love to hear about it. Please comment below.

Amy Wong is the executive editor of Guideposts and was a founding editor of Positive Thinking. She lives in New York City with her adopted dog, Winky, a natural-born positive thinker who believes that everyone has a treat for her and every day is the best day of her life. Amy hopes to be that optimistic someday (she’s working on it!).

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