Black Interests

The Power of Meeting A Stranger by Gary A. Johnson


February 10, 2019

I was driving home from the office in my car with a full tank of gas. It was cold and I had my hands on a heated steering wheel in a comfortable climate controlled cabin environment. I purposely focused on my grocery list, rather than the traffic congestion. I quickly grew tired of the traffic and pulled off the highway and stopped at a grocery store that was not in my neighborhood. While walking into the grocery store I passed a man standing outside of the store who asked me if I had any spare change so that he could get something to eat. I told the man that I had to pick up a few items and that I would take care of him when I came out of the store.

I’m blessed beyond measure. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or whether I will have a warm, safe and comfortable place to lay my head. When I came out of the store, I asked the man: “Do you want some money? Or do you want a meal?” Without hesitation, he replied, “A meal.” I looked at him, and said, “Let’s take a walk.” He said, Quiznos was one of his favorite places in the shopping center. While walking to Quiznos we just talked. The man was soft spoken, articulate and humble. Once we got into Quiznos I told him to order whatever he wanted. All he wanted was a regular sandwich, not even the “meal deal.” I had to force him to get a drink. We sat down and I asked him if he cared to share his story. He agreed, and started sharing part of his story over dinner. He used to be a successful self-employed plumber contracted with a large home improvement company. He asked me what I did for a living. I told him that I was a consultant and owner of an online magazine and blog.

The gentlemen asked that I take his picture and share his story as a reminder that people in his position, deeply appreciate people in my position who help others. After we finished eating, we shook hands and he thanked me for the meal. And then he walked out of the store. Here’s what was reaffirmed for me this evening. Anyone of us can fall on hard times quickly and without warning. I’m a better person for having had dinner with this proud man tonight.

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February 13, 2019 (Follow-up To the Previous Story)

The reaction to my “buying dinner for a stranger” story has been powerful and inspirational. People from all over the country have reached out to thank me for sharing the story. Many of you said, that my post inspired them to be kind and giving to someone. I’ve been thinking about that encounter for 3 days. That stranger thanked me and walked away. I should have thanked him for being so humble and kind.

You probably noticed that I never mentioned the man’s name. That’s because I don’t recall asking him his name. The next day I drove to that same shopping center around the same time looking for him. I didn’t see him so I drove home.

Today, I stopped at the shopping center and circled it twice. I didn’t see him. As I turned out of the shopping center on my way home, I saw the man walking down the street. I got close and blew my horn. He kept walking. I pulled into a parking lot ahead of him and waited for him to come my way. As he got close I jumped out of my car and started talking to him. He seemed a bit cautious until he saw my face and recognized me. I explained how sharing our encounter on Monday motivated and inspired others to be more kind and giving. Then I further explained that all I wanted to do was say, “Thank you.” He turned to me and said, “I really appreciated what you did for me the other day. Today was a good day for me. I stood in the parking lot of Home Depot and a lady picked me up to do a plumbing job. It made me feel good that I could help her and save her some money.”

By now, some of you reading this are probably hearing the song, “Reunited,” by Peaches & Herb. Trust me, there’s no “Bromance” going on here. I simply wanted to thank the stranger who made me a better man that day. That man is no longer a stranger. His name is Alvin Byrd. Thank you Mr. Byrd!

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