Black Interests

The Power of Meeting A Stranger by Gary A. Johnson


By Gary A. Johnson – Publisher

Publisher’s NoteThis pandemic is causing havoc for many.  People are having difficulty paying their mortgages, car loans, buying food, medicine and paying for childcare.  The nation’s food supply and air safety are at risk as Food Inspectors and Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) Officers are short staffed and some airport checkpoints have been closed.  If ever there was a time to be kind to one another it is NOW!

As I get older, I am very deliberate that I will be more patient and kind toward others. I was raised to be kind to others, however, the deliberate aspect of being kind occurred on February 10, 2019. On that day I was driving home from the office. It was cold and I had my hands on a heated steering wheel in a comfortable climate controlled luxury vehicle. I quickly grew tired of the traffic and pulled off the highway and stopped at a grocery store that was not in my neighborhood. I was in Oxon Hill, Maryland, just across the Washington, DC line.

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 at the other end of the shopping center we started talking.
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 felt comfortable talking about his situation. He agreed, and started sharing part of his story. He said 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 restaurant.
As I walked back to my car, I heavily reflected on the fact that anyone of us can fall on hard times, quickly and without warning. And then I realized that I can be a better person from this point on as a result of having dinner with a stranger. He’s was a stranger because I never asked him his name. How could I spend an hour with this guy and not ask him his name?
He thanked me and walked away. I should have thanked him for being so open, humble and kind.
Two days passed and I thought about that man and our time together every day. On Day 3, I returned to the same shopping center at approximately the same time, looking for that man. I circled the shopping center twice and did not see him. I drove out of the shopping center and started driving home. After driving about two blocks, I saw a man walking down the street that resembled the stranger. I slowed up 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 walking toward him. He slowed up and was obviously cautious until he recognized me. It was him. He stopped and I explained how our previous encounter motivated and inspired me to be more kind and giving. I further explained that I wanted to 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.”
I finally asked him his name. His name is Alvin Byrd. Thank you Mr. Byrd!

Throughout my life I have witnessed and benefited from deliberate and random acts of kindness.  I’ve learned that there are various levels or degrees of kindness.  As a result, I am kind to others and I teach others to be kind, patient, understanding and forgiving.  Kindhearted people can make a significant impact on others and help make our world a better place.  This page is the result of a discussion about kindness.  We want you to share your acts of kindness.  Not sure what to do?  Here are some examples:

  • Be a friend who listens
  • Call or write to a teacher who changed your life
  • Spend quality time with your children, parents or friends
  • Cook a meal for someone
  • Forgive someone a debt–and never bring it up again
  • Help someone do stuff for FREE
  • Leave a generous tip for a pleasant waiter
  • Donate money, clothes or equipment to an organization that helps others
  • Mentor a child or teen
  • Offer change when the person in front of you at the register comes up short
  • Offer to baby-sit for someone for FREE
  • Pay the toll for the driver behind you
  • Say “I love you” to someone you love
  • Say “please” and “thank you”—and really mean it
  • Sincerely say “I’m sorry” when you’re wrong
  • Visit the elderly in a nursing home
  • When you’re on a crowded train or bus, offer your seat to an elderly, disabled or pregnant person

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