She timidly asked the woman eating alone if she could join her. It was her best decision all year.

We sometimes lose sight of the fact that every day we have a choice.

We can choose to connect to those around us, or we can choose to close ourselves off. Some days we may not feel like reaching out to others, but on days when we can, you never know just what may come of it.

We're busy.

I know. I'm caught in that cycle, too. When I do get a moment to breathe and do something for myself, sometimes I just want the time to clear my mind and, blessedly, say nothing. There's nothing wrong with that.


But during our more generous moments...

Maybe we could stretch ourselves a bit further — stretch to offer human warmth and conversation to someone who deserves it simply for being another person in our midst. Stretch to brighten someone's day, knowing that maybe we'll be turned down, and maybe we won't. Stretch to keep ourselves open to the world and to other people, even if naysayers would have you believe it's safer to stay tight and closed off. Stretch simply to tell the world that we won't be automatons who use our energy and light only for the tasks required to survive but that we will be people who really live.

That's what happened when Brooke Ochoa went to lunch by herself. She could have kept her gaze fixed to her phone, barely taking in the information from the environment around her. But she tuned in. She noticed people. She noticed Delores. And what came of that is truly beautiful. Enjoy.

Image by Brooke Ochoa.

"Today I Went to eat at a restaurant for lunch and I saw this elder lady coming from afar so I waited to hold the door for her, she was very thankful and sweet. She then told the waitress, "table for one", so I waited and hesitated but then I walked over and said, "I'm eating by myself too would you like to have lunch together?" She was ecstatic! Come to find out she spent the last decade living with her mom who recently passed away and her aunt who recently was put into a nursing home, so she has been having a hard time being alone. We had a wonderful talk, and she just kept smiling and saying thank you for listening to me, which made me smile too! Her words healed my heart just as much as i healed her lonely one. By far the best decision I've made all year!!! Her name is Delores, and we will be having lunch every Thursday from now on."
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.