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Globe Magazine

As the pandemic grew, another wave surged: compassion from strangers

The creator of the Good News Movement on social media reflects on kindness where we least expect.

Michelle Figueroa is the founder of Good News Movement.
Michelle Figueroa is the founder of Good News Movement.Handout

As the pandemic grew, another wave surged: compassion from strangers. A year and a half ago, I created @goodnews_movement, a social media page dedicated to good news that encourages people to send upbeat stories and acts of kindness for me to amplify to the world. I’ve noticed, especially recently, that many times the kind person didn’t know the person he or she was helping — they were strangers.

In April, a teenage supermarket cashier in Georgetown, Tennessee, was ringing up groceries for a senior citizen who didn’t have enough cash to cover his bill. The cashier offered to pay the $33 difference out of her own pocket. After antiracism protests in Buffalo, New York, on June 1, 18-year-old Antonio Gwynn Jr. felt compelled to clean his city’s streets at 2 a.m. working through the night so essential workers getting to their early shifts could access the roads.

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We get by with the help of strangers — and sometimes we owe them our lives. In April, a man in Seine-et-Marne, France, was on his smoke-filled balcony as his apartment was engulfed in flames. Two strangers scaled three stories to save him. The distressed man pleaded, “I can’t walk. I am scared,” and in this big, crazy world of over 7 billion people, it was a stranger who reached out his hand and said, “Hold on, you’ll be OK.” There are many people — strangers — encouraging others to “hold on.”

That teenager, Gwynn, in Buffalo, sweeping his heart and his broom on his city streets made local news. A stranger who saw it gifted him a red Mustang in gratitude. Serendipitously, Antonio’s deceased mother once owned a red Mustang, making me think maybe it wasn’t a coincidence and that strangers are brought into our lives for a reason.

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Thank you, strangers.

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Michelle Figueroa is a journalist and Good News Movement founder based in Brookline.