Antique store owner stunned by mystery piano player found him and gave him the instrument
via ReMARKable Cleanouts / Facebook

One of the oddest things about the COVID-19 pandemic is that it's hard to identify people at times because they are wearing a mask. It can be tough noticing people you regularly see in the community because more than half their face is obscured.

In this case, people were trying to locate and identify John Thomas Archer, a 23-year-old architecture student who wowed people in the ReMARKable Cleanouts second-hand store in Norwood, Massachusetts. But it was hard to figure out who he is because of the mask he wore to protect him from getting or spreading COVID-19.

On Saturday, July 11, he walked into the store and asked an employee, Melissa Rediker, if he could play one of the pianos on display, it had a "Do Not Play' sign attached.


Archer sat down at a Steinway and started banging out a song that always gets everyone in the bar singing along, "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. Everyone knew what Archer was playing right off the bat due to the songs infectious bass line.

The store placed a video of his playing on its Facebook page and it went viral.

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The video made the store owner, Mark Waters, so happy that he decided to give Archer the piano.

"He started playing and the place lit up!" Waters told CBS Boston, adding: "We'll give him the piano. Bring the kid in! We'd be more than happy to bring it to him. We can't find him! Nobody knows who this young man was."

This kicked off a search for the "mystery man" who was found by Julie McDonald at WBZ Channel 4 who interviewed him on the newscast three days later.

via ReMARKable Cleanouts / Facebook

That Tuesday, Archer's girlfriend send him a text saying that people were looking for him.

"My girlfriend sent me a text that the media was looking for me," he said. "I didn't know so many people would be affected by watching me play. I am just baffled."

Archer told McDonald that he was an "amateur" musician and the at the Journey tune was the first he ever learned. He didn't have a piano at home, just a keyboard. The next day he returned to the store and gave a performance of "All of Me" by John Legend.



"He's a good young man and I'm glad he gets to have the piano," Waters said. "If it brings joy into his life, that brings joy into my heart."

"I just wish there was more stories like this with everyone opening their hearts," he told Good Morning America. "I'd like to donate something every day if it brought people into a good mood."

The only problem was that the store isn't sure how to get the piano up to his fourth-floor apartment.

"A very talented and kind young man who will be receiving a piano…we can get it to his home, but having trouble finding a way to get it on the 4th floor!!" ReMARKable Cleanouts wrote on their Facebook page.

"Do we know anyone who can deliver a piano to a 4th floor? Asking for a friend," they also posted.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.