Most of us tend to avoid strangers — no eye contact, no talking, nothing. Whether it’s from callousness or insecurity, we just don’t want to open ourselves up to other people. As a result, we may miss key opportunities to help others in need.

One Pennsylvania construction worker was barely getting through the day in abysmal conditions. However, his mood took a turn when he spotted an unfamiliar face staring out at him. He knew he had to reach out and interact…

Jeff Reick didn’t feel like going out in the cold one morning in early 2017. He’d rather have stayed home sipping coffee and chatting with his wife Kimberly. Still, none of that really mattered — duty called.

Facebook / Kimberly Reick

As an ironworker, Jeff got used to working in the elements many years ago. He and his colleagues at the Century Steel Erectors plied their trade all over the greater Pittsburgh area. This particular day, they were in the midst of a particularly challenging job.

Jeff lugged his gear out to the Excela Frick Hospital in Mount Pleasant, where they would build a new entryway. With only a few beams up so far, the entire company knew they still had a ways to go. Jeff let out a sigh as he got started.

Meanwhile, 88-year-old Gloria Porter checked in to that same hospital. She came down with a nasty case of pneumonia, and the Excela staff was keeping close tabs on her recovery.

However, Gloria’s stay at the Frick Hospital wasn’t very exciting. Aside from quick interactions with doctors and nurses, there was little conversation to be had. Visitors were few and far between.

Gloria could only watch so many re-runs and infomercials on her tiny hospital television. So to entertain herself, she would peer out the window, passing the time by watching whatever happened below.

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Once Jeff and the ironworkers arrived, Gloria had something interesting to watch. It was pretty fascinating to see a building come together, even if it was a slow process! However, one thing unnerved her.

YouTube / WTAE

The cold February air whipped past the hospital without letting up, even for a second. Soon, it brought a steady amount of snow with it, which gradually started to cover everything Gloria could see.

At the same time, the workers perched themselves atop metal beams, some of them multiple stories off the ground. Surely they were at risk of slipping and falling in this treacherous weather?

YouTube / WTAE

Safe and sound in her hospital room, Gloria could only imagine how miserable the construction crew was feeling. She tapped on the glass of her window and waved — just so those men would know someone was looking out for them.

Though construction workers often have a reputation for being rude to strangers — we’ve all seen them whistle at women in movies — this was a good bunch. The ironworkers paused their heavy lifting to wave back at the old woman in the window.

YouTube / WTAE

Jeff — trying to picture himself in much warmer weather — really appreciated this stranger’s kind gesture. Obviously, she was struggling with some problem in the hospital, and yet she was looking out for others.

Facebook / Kimberly Reick

Before getting back to work, Jeff decided to show his appreciation. He dug through his company’s toolbox, rummaging past various hammers, wrenches, and levels. Jeff was looking for a much simpler tool.

At the bottom of the box, he grasped a single piece of white chalk. Jeff knelt down over one of the top horizontal beams and scrawled out a message directly facing Gloria’s window: GET WELL.

YouTube / WTAE

Gloria, who’d watched the entire act unfold, never expected anything like this. It really warmed her heart that a man out in the cold would take a minute out of his day to wish her well. Still, she couldn’t help but feel uneasy about his safety up there.

Then a curious thought entered Gloria’s mind. If the ironworker could write her a note, why couldn’t she return the favor? Gloria called in a nurse to bring her a notepad and a pen. She got to writing.

Feeling proud of herself, Gloria tore off a strip of scotch tape and fastened the paper to the window. The construction crew noticed it a couple minutes later and peered at the note. It read, STAY SAFE.

Facebook / Excela Health

For Jeff, the simple piece of paper contained a profound message. “That sign kind of crushed me. I don’t know how she knew stay safe,”Jeff reflected. “It’s kind of like ironworker lingo!”

In a dangerous industry like ironworking, craftsmen have their own unique methods and language for protecting themselves. That Gloria should use one of their own mottos was a mind-blowing coincidence.

Those kind messages kept both Jeff and Gloria warm that day. Kind acts between strangers tend to be contagious, as one good deed immediately spirals into many more. In the process, the lives of everyone involved change forever.

Facebook / Excela Health

Jamie-Lynne Knighten had a lot on her plate, but had no idea she was about to be involved in a miracle. In 2015, she had to devote nearly all her time and energy into caring for her newborn baby. She could’ve really used a guardian angel.

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Following a draining trip, Jamie-Lynne touched down in Southern California. She would’ve liked nothing more than to go home and sleep, but the Knightens had almost no food left in the house. She decided to make a quick run to the store.

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So Jamie-Lynne headed over to the Trader Joe’s in Oceanside with her five-month-old in tow. Weaving through the busy aisles, she filled up her cart with a number of items. However, this errand wasn’t going as smoothly as she hoped.

Her worn-out infant was throwing a tantrum in the store. Between trying to calm him down and apologizing to other customers around them, Jamie-Lynne barely had time to scan the shelves for food she wanted!

Finally, the tired mom and kid made it to check out. With any luck, the line would move swiftly, and they could get home in a matter of minutes. Jamie-Lynne stepped up to the register and pulled out her credit card.

Except for each time she swiped, the register declined her card! Realizing that the bank thought she was still traveling, Jamie-Lynne panicked. How was she going to pay for this huge grocery order?

Moments later, she felt a tap on her shoulder and whirled around to face a stranger. Without giving him a chance to speak, the stressed mom said she was sorry for the delay. The last thing she needed was a customer screaming, too.

NBC San Diego

Except, scanning over Jamie-Lynne’s $200 order, the customer — who introduced himself as Matthew Jackson — made a shocking offer. He said he would pay for her entire cart, though with one condition.

Jamie-Lynne had to pay it forward and someday do the same for someone else in need. Grateful beyond belief, she accepted his generous proposition. The mom also insisted on jotting down Matthew’s information, so she could pay him back.

Matthew mentioned he worked at a nearby LA Fitness, so Jamie-Lynne called the gym the next day. When she asked for Matthew Jackson, however, all she heard on the other line was a sob.

That sobbing came from Angela Lavinder, the manager of the LA Fitness. Once she took a moment to calm herself, Angela explained that Matthew wouldn’t be able to meet. There had been an accident.

NBC San Diego

Less than 24 hours after Matthew paid for the Knighten’s groceries, his car had veered into a tree. Two passengers with him entered the hospital with severe injuries, but Matthew got the worst of the crash.

He died from the trauma shortly after. This news shook Jamie-Lynne to her core. Was it possible that the life of this Good Samaritan was snuffed out just moments after their brief meeting? She soon found out that his selflessness wasn’t an isolated incident either.

NBC San Diego

Notably, Matthew and his mother traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, one summer. When he spotted a homeless man sitting alone on the sidewalk, Matthew jumped out of the car on a busy street to hand him a bottle of water.

It was so unfair, Jamie-Lynne thought, for this young man’s bright future to be cut short. At the very least, however, she pledged to make good on her final promise to Matthew. She would pay it forward.

So Jamie-Lynne went online and set up an organization called Matthew’s Legacy. She asked all interested members to “please do something extraordinary for a stranger to honor #MatthewsLegacy and help restore faith in humanity.”

Los Angeles Times

Jamie-Lynne began sharing photos (like the one below) and stories of her family performing various acts of kindness. Soon, the number of members of Matthew’s Legacy climbed into the thousands, and then the tens of thousands. Other people started submitting stories, too.

Facebook / MatthewsLegacy

People from all over the world posted themselves paying it forward, big and small experiences with kind strangers. Collectively, they were really making a difference in the world. This fact was not lost on Matthew’s friends and family, either.

Nic Carlson, one of the passengers in Matthew’s car during the fatal crash, saw it as a perfect tribute to his friend. Speaking to Matthew’s special character, Nic said he “always wanted to make people feel better or fix a problem that they had.”

NBC San Diego

For Jamie-Lynne, it was a cathartic experience to somehow pay back the kindness she received at such a vulnerable moment. Matthew’s Legacy gave her a chance to teach her children the value of good deeds. They saw firsthand one little action can affect people.

Now thousands of people are following his example and living out the values that he stood for. Olivia, her husband, Eric, and their three children are just some of the folks benefiting from simple kindnesses.

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See, it should come as no surprise, but homelessness can really wear on a person. With no stability in life, it can be nearly impossible to find a job or the money necessary to fix your situation. Olivia and her family knew all about that.

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As the winter of 2016 approached, they lived in a converted school bus that repeatedly broke down, and they had no money, no jobs, and no prospects. Nothing was going well for them.

Denver 7 / YouTube

The family moved from Florida to Missouri in hopes of a better life, but they found few opportunities there. They hit the road again, but they hadn’t even traveled 1,000 miles before their bus broke down in Colorado. At that point, they were homeless, jobless, penniless, and stuck.

From there, the nightmare worsened. Someone stole all of Eric’s IDs. They couldn’t find work, and making matters infinitely worse, they couldn’t find the money for RV sites. That’s how they ended up parked behind a gas station on Thanksgiving Day.

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“We didn’t think we were going to have a Christmas at all,” Olivia told Denver 7 News. “We’d have been lucky if we had enough food, or if we got jobs.” As a family, they were at rock bottom. And then they came face to face with Virginia Kinch…

Trevor Reid / Greeley Tribune

It was a strange set of circumstances that allowed for Virginia and Olivia to meet. Back in September 2016, Virginia had been selling some items from her basement on Craigslist when several interesting responses filled her mailbox.

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Single mothers seemed to be the only people responding to Virginia’s Craigslist postings. None of them could afford Virginia’s stuff, but they all offered to exchange work for the items they wanted. That’s when Virginia had an idea.

Denver 7 / YouTube

Instead of selling the junk she’d cleaned out of her basement, Virginia decided to give it away. “Take what you need,” she told the inquiring mothers. Virginia wanted to support those in need, and she truly enjoyed the feeling that came from being generous.

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By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, Virginia, her husband, and their three teenage daughters were passing out food to the homeless around town. They knew about the family living behind the gas station in a broken down bus, so they prepared them a special Thanksgiving meal.

But when Virginia and her family knocked on the bus’s door—and came face to face with Olivia and her kids—they saw something eerie. It was like looking in a mirror. There, homeless, broke, and hungry, were a mother, a father, and three little girls. In another life, it could have been the Kinch family in that bus—and that broke Virginia’s heart.

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“We fed them and went home and cried,” Virginia told Denver 7 News, “and decided that we needed to do something.” But what could they do? Virginia and her husband had their own house and children to take care of. Still, the family had an unbelievable idea…

Denver 7 / YouTube

The Kinch family had a second house in the city of Greeley, Colorado. Virginia and her husband had planned to rent or sell it, but after chatting with Olivia behind the gas station, they thought of a better use for it.

Denver 7 / YouTube

That’s how Virginia ended up driving back to ask Olivia and her family if they wanted to move into the Kinch’s spare house. “I just didn’t think it was real,” Olivia said. “Like a cruel joke… ’cause who does that? Nobody does that.”

Denver 7 / YouTube

“We just couldn’t leave them like that [with] those little babies in the cold,” Virginia told the Longmont Daily Times-Call. She donated her house to people she didn’t know at all until they got back on their feet. But Virginia wasn’t finished!

Denver 7 / YouTube

For a week, Virginia and her family collected donations of food, clothes, and toys from people around the town. Her teenage daughters even offered to return Christmas presents so more money could go to supporting Olivia and her kids! The community had even more surprises for the struggling family…

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Remember that Olivia’s husband, Eric, had lost all of his forms of identification somewhere along the way to Colorado? Well, the local church in Greeley, Colorado, stepped in and helped find replacements!

While Eric had his IDs replaced, Olivia found daycare for her kids. Without having to care for and supervise them 24 hours per day, she and her husband were free to interview for jobs again. They had momentum in the right direction!

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“It can be really difficult to get out of homelessness. People don’t understand that it’s so unstable, it’s so hard to get your footing and get out of it,” explained Olivia. Thanks to Virginia, though, this family was certainly on their way.

Denver 7 / YouTube

Meanwhile, Virginia plotted what to do with the property once Olivia and her family were able to secure a residence of their own. If all went well, she figured she’d loan the house to another homeless family in need.

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In the end, because Virginia and her family cared about others so much, Olivia and her kids were able to have a very merry, indoor Christmas! Olivia said it best: “People just need someone to care.”

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