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kindness of strangers

Joy

Woman shares the powerful impact of a 'hardcore' gym bro's words of encouragement

Previous experience had her feeling nervous when the man approached her at the gym, but what he said brought her to tears.

Steph shares how a few simple words made all the difference.

Going to the gym can be a daunting prospect for a lot of people. It shouldn't be—the whole point of going to the gym is to exercise, which is something that should universally be applauded—but sometimes it can feel like there's pressure to be at a certain fitness level or have a certain physique before stepping foot in the door.

For people who are heavier, gym culture can be especially intimidating. Unfortunately, not everyone remembers to practice kindness and fatphobia appears to remain a fairly tolerated prejudice. That shouldn't stop people with big bodies from enjoying all that fitness centers have to offer, but all too often, it does.

It hasn't stopped a woman named Steph from working out regularly at her gym, albeit with some trepidation. As she shared in a hugely viral TikTok, she's experienced some unkind behavior at the gym that made her nervous when a man approached her recently. But her description of the encounter ultimately demonstrated how powerful a few positive words can be.

In a video made from her car just after leaving the gym, Steph explained that a "hardcore" gym-goer who is "super tough" and covered in tattoos had came up to talk to her. Her initial response was to be afraid of what he was going to say to her, based on previous experience. She shared in the video how hard it's been to stay steady with her workouts, especially with medications she's on making her body hold onto weight, but she's been working hard to be consistent. She steeled herself for whatever he might say.

She didn't expect it to be this: "I've seen you in here every week, almost every day. I've seen you in here every week—and I'm proud of you." Nor did she expect that such simple words of encouragement could make such a huge impact.

Watch her tell the story:

@steph5468

#gymprogress #workputjourney #keepgoing #healingjourney

People had a lot to say about the interchange and Steph's emotional response to it.

"People do not realize, how one person can change everything," wrote one commenter.

"Girl you are CRUSHING IT," wrote another. "That man you encountered is what real men do. Encourage. Support. Be human! It isn’t hard! ❤️"

"No one knows your story, your struggles. You're doing the dang thing and that takes courage and strength. You. Keep. Going. I'm proud of you too!" shared another.

More and more words of encouragement flooded Steph's comment section, and people on Upworthy's Instagram page weighed in as well.

"I'm a fitness coach and this made me cry 😢 just having someone say they are proud of you can move mountains for so many of us who didn’t/ don’t get the praise growing up," wrote one person.

"Who knows? He may be going through something too and saw a determined, consistent, fellow traveler," wrote another. "You share your Truth so powerfully. You may not know how many people will see this and be encouraged by your honesty. I’m in awe that you show up for YOURSELF every day. And as for the rude and ill-mannered? Well they struggle too—just to be decent kind human beings. Some people have not been shown Empathy and therefore do not know how to use that muscle. You are beautiful, smart, articulate, wise and a woman who knows where she’s headed. Keep walking, head up knowing there are many many more who do empathize, who see you and are on your side❤️"

"It’s amazing to think about how this man’s single act of kindness, spread through you to affect us all in a positive way," shared another. "This made all of our days, and I’m crying tears of joy while I write this. Please thank him from all of us the next time you see him, if you’re comfortable with that. And thank you for sharing! ❤️"

Indeed, thanks to both Steph and the hardcore, tattooed gym bro for being wonderful examples for us all. We never know what a small act of kindness or a few words of encouragement will do to make someone's life significantly better, but it's always worth trying.


This article originally appeared on 9.5.23

Top Splash

Little boy and his mom get the surprise of a lifetime: tickets to the Eagles game

"I hate telling people no, especially when I can help."

Little boy and his mom get surprised with tickets to Eagles game.

In today's world, it's easy to get caught up in all the negative news we're exposed to, but in reality, most good deeds are done away from a camera—just one person helping another without desire for fanfare. And for mom Bryanne McBride and her young son, Mason, that's exactly what they were doing when they got the surprise of a lifetime.

Bryanne was approached by a man in a parking lot asking for a dollar to catch the bus. The entire time, the mom scrounged around in her purse looking for spare change and revealed she felt bad because she thought she had some. Bryanne's desire to help was a simple act of kindness to another human in need without the expectation of something in return.

During the time it took for the unsuspecting mother to dig for loose change, the "stranded" stranger, Zach, introduced himself and asked if the duo were from Philly. Once they said they were from the area, he then inquired if they were Eagles fans...the football team, not the birds. "You ever been to an Eagles game?" Zach asked.


The two quickly said no but the mom was focused on retrieving some quarters for this stranger. Zach continued to question them about the Eagles game, asking, "Would you want to go one day?" The answer was an enthusiastic yes, though Bryanne never broke her gaze from the purse as she looked for change. When she finally relented that she had no money in her purse and would need to check her car, she came back to a surprise.

Zach asked why Bryanne was so willing to help him and her response was just more evidence that she's simply a kind person. "I hate telling people no, especially when I can help," she said. After she handed him the money, he gave it to Mason and said he didn't actually need it before handing the generous mom $500 in cash. But Zach wasn't done—he had tickets to the Eagles game that night and gave the mother and son the tickets.

Watch their sweet exchange:

Joy

People were asked to share their 'most memorable moment' with a stranger. One answer jumped out.

"As I got to the checkstand with my arm full of stuff I dropped a container of sour cream and it exploded everywhere. I completely lost control of myself and started to cry. The ugly cry."

Good grief, strangers can be kind.

Interactions with strangers can be the highlight of your day, the reason you're crying in a bathroom stall at Chipotle or anywhere in between. A user on Reddit wanted to hear about the most memorable moments people had with strangers in what is assumed to be an effort to show the good in humanity.

The question read, "What is the most memorable moment you shared with a stranger who you never saw again?" Well, leave a prompt like that and the internet is ripe with responses ready to go. This particular post has more than 11,000 comments, but it was one comment in particular that stood out and brought the internet to tears.

Reddit user misdolnurs2517 answered the prompt with a story about grief and how a group of strangers came together for a momentary act of kindness.


The user says at the time of the incident her father had passed away earlier that day and she felt like she was doing a pretty good job holding it together. Grief is a strange thing, sometimes it's delayed, sometimes its immediate and oftentimes it peeks its head up in the most unexpected moments. You never know how grief is going to affect you until it hits, and it's something you don't have much control over.

kindness; act of kindness; strangers; griefPhoto by Ben White on Unsplash

For this particular Reddit user, grief snuck up on her when she took a stroll around Target to clear her mind and buy a few groceries. The commenter recalls getting to the checkout stand with her arms full when she dropped a container of sour cream. It was in that moment, the dam broke. Right in the middle of Target for everyone to see, this grieving daughter began to sob uncontrollably.

She said, "I completely lost control of myself and started to cry. The ugly cry." Everyone knows that cry and it doesn't tend to happen over sour cream splattered all over the floor. The shoppers around her knew that something deeper was going on but no one pried.

kindness; act of kindness; strangers; griefPhoto by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The Reddit user said she was instantly surrounded by a group of women who took charge of the situation without saying a word. Connecting with someone on such a human level that words are not needed is a moment to be treasured. She said the women cleaned up the mess, someone grabbed her a new sour cream and helped her get checked out.

I'm stereotyping here, but that is some big mom energy coming from that group of women. They saw someone who was hurting and did what needed to be done without shaming, without prying and without talking. The group anticipated the needs of a stranger then anticipated the actions of the other women helping to get a grieving person home.

kindness; act of kindness; strangers; grief

Reddit Screenshot

The story garnered many supportive comments but most were speculating on if a group of moms is called a flock or a gaggle before telling their own stories of how a random mom helped them. No matter what a group of moms is called, the story is a beautiful testament to seeing one another's humanity.

Courtesy of Kevin Cate

Man gives away $13,000.

Usually, seeing "Florida" and "man" in a headline makes me take a deep breath in preparation for some sort of shenanigans. The short phrase has become synonymous with outlandish antics, but this is a Florida man story everyone can get behind. Kevin Cate, a former campaign spokesperson for President Barack Obama and owner of CATECOMM, a media consulting company, caught a random act of kindness by a Florida man while dining at a Waffle House in Midway, in the northern part of the state.


Cate watched as an anonymous man attached money to small handmade notes. Eventually, curiosity got the better of Cate and he asked the man what he was up to. Turns out the elderly gentleman had been spending his time passing out $1 and $5 to strangers at the restaurant and other places. According to Cate, who documented the interaction on Twitter, each note said “Love Every Body,” in bold text. Turns out those words were the last thing the generous stranger’s mother said to him before she passed away.

“She didn’t say ‘I love you.’ She said ‘Love everybody.’ So that’s what I’m doing,” the man said, according to Cate. That’s one powerful moment that clearly stuck with the man. Cate wrote that since 2014, the mysterious donor has given away more than $13,000 to strangers and preps to give away his money by printing and cutting out the notes every few days.

What a sweet way for the man to honor his mother’s memory. Surely there are people who receive his gift just when they need it the most, and for the others it likely brings a smile to their faces. Since Cate shared the encounter with his Twitter followers, the man spreading kindness is spreading hope on social media.

Twitter

One commenter, Tiffany wrote, “I just needed to tell you thank you for posting this. Ever since my sister was killed in the Boise mall shooting, it feels as though a snow ball effect has taken all of the light from the world. This thread helped me remember the lights still there.”

Twitter

Another commenter, Doug, pointed out, “While we might not know this from Twitter or the news, trust me when I say there are far more good people out there than bad. They just don't make the news. It's really nice to be reminded.”

I’m pretty sure Doug is onto something. Media rarely focuses on the good in the world, and the constant barrage of bad news can make you forget that good still happens. And not just occasionally. Good things happen daily, multiple times a day in large and small ways. It’s unfortunate that we don’t bolster all the kindness around us to balance things out, but it’s clear this Florida man's acts of kindness are restoring some of our faith in humanity.

Hopefully being a witness to or reading about someone else’s kind deeds will inspire others to follow suit in their own ways.