How to Help Yourself by Helping Others

It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon here in New York City, with the kind of wind and rain that turns your umbrella inside out. I was slowly navigating my way down the city streets when suddenly a $10 bill blew right in front of the guy walking ahead of me. He grabbed it excitedly as it flew through the air in what seemed like slow motion, catching it in his fist. He walked a block, grinning ear to ear.

“He's psyched,” I thought to myself as I continued to walk behind him. But I remember thinking it was strange that he didn’t put the money in his pocket. He just held it down at his side, where it could just blow away again.

A block later, the man walked past a homeless woman who looked about 80 years old. She was frail, with rosy cheeks from the cold. She looked like she should be in a warm kitchen baking cookies, not on the street with all her worldly possessions in a shopping cart. The man walked right up to her as if he expected her to be there waiting for him and, to her amazement, presented her with the $10 bill. She thanked him profusely and he continued on his way, simply nodding his head in acknowledgment. He never uttered a single word.

I walked another block behind him, touched to have witnessed this moment. When we were both stopped at a traffic light, I leaned over and said, “That was really great what you just did.” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I just lost my job and wanted to do one thing I could be proud of today.” I was stunned. So many emotions ran through me as his words came out. What could I possibly say? The traffic light changed and he continued walking, his shoulders a little straighter, his head held a little higher. Proud.

It’s moments like these that restore my faith in humanity. It’s moments like these that remind me of all the wonderful things there are to see and witness when I’m not staring at my phone. If each of us could do one small thing every day for someone else, maybe we could all walk a little taller and feel a little prouder. The simple act of giving with no expectation of being reciprocated feeds our spirit. People inherently want to be seen as “good” and to “do good” when given the opportunity, yet so many of us miss the opportunities that are right in front of us, like the one that man on the street seized.

There’s a saying I’ve heard: “Someone would love to live your worst day.” I imagine, as this man walked down the street after being fired, that he may have thought life couldn’t get much worse. But all it took was a few blocks for him to be confronted by another human being who probably would have gladly traded places with him. And by helping her out, even in a small way, he helped himself as well.

Little acts of kindness can make a big difference for both the giver and the receiver, as well as those who are privy to the acts the way I was. Next time you’re having a bad day, rather than wallow in it, challenge yourself to make someone else’s day a little brighter. Then, watch yours become a little brighter, too.

Jenny Powers is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.

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