9 Ways to Make a Stranger’s Day in the City

Downtown Toronto is consistently a busy, bustling place. If you take a walk through the city, day after day you will see innumerable places and faces. It may be easy to simply walk straight by the chaos, and mind your own business. Many times, I find myself with my earphones in, and tunnel vision on to get to where I’m going. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that each passing person and place, no matter what city you’re in, has a story. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel more connected in some way? Of course, it’s not the easiest task to stop, ask, and get to know these stories individually. There are, however, other possible ways to feel more connected in a busy city. Here are some random acts of kindness you can use to make a stranger’s day, and feel more connected to the big city in the process.

Pay it Forward

Parking metres. Does anybody really enjoy having to pay to let their car sit around? Next time you find yourself taking out change, leave some quarters in the metre for the next customer.

Tip for the Trip

Offer a token to the person behind you so that they can take their city adventure free of charge.

Help with the Groceries

Tape a $5 bill to an item in a grocery store, for example, in the baby section. What new parent wouldn’t want to find that on their next package of diapers? Or take a bit of time during your next shopping trip to put coupons on the store shelves. Someone would be pleased to get that extra 10% off.

Pay it Backward

Ever find yourself in line at the café getting a coffee? Me too. Everyday. Caffeine could be the most pleasing thing on those early mornings. Paying for the person behind you at Starbucks as a random act of kindness will allow for an easy way to get both of your days starting on the right foot.


What do people usually find as a surprise on their windshield? A parking ticket. Wouldn’t it be nice, for a change, to receive a note with a positive message?

“You can make it through anything today!”
“Hope you have a fantastic day!”

Leave a nice note on someone’s windshield, in the pages of a book in a public library, or anywhere in the city! Finding a nice compliment can give someone an extra boost to make it through the day.

Feed a Furry Friend

Animal lovers, this one is for you. Bring a bag of food or treats to an animal shelter. Just go to the front desk and make your delivery. This can allow for some happy furry faces.

Add to the Fun

There are many child-care centres in the city. Deliver a game, puzzle, or toy the children can enjoy. They’ll probably have the best day ever.

Offer a Smile

Sometimes, a friendly look is all a person needs to put a good spin on the day. Neurotransmitters called endorphins are released when you smile. Endorphins are responsible for making us feel happy, and they also help lower stress levels. It’s contagious. Simply smiling at someone could brighten both their day, and yours.

Stay thoughtful

Making a difference in someone’s day does not have to cost a thing. Sometimes, making a stranger’s day better can be as simple as holding the building door open for them to go first, or giving up your seat on the subway.


An act of kindness does not need to take much time, and you never know who will benefit. Maybe you will have a positive effect on a person who is going through a rough time, and is in need of a nudge forward. Brightening a stranger’s day can also allow you to feel like a tiny part of someone’s story in a big, fast-moving city, creating a sense of connection in what could otherwise feel like a disconnected place.

Photo courtesy of Kat Northern Lights Man via Flickr.

Alexandria is the spotlight section editor for On the Danforth, summer issue. She is an avid magazine lover. When she isn’t lost in her Instagram feed seeking out the trendiest fashion bloggers, you can find her catching up on the latest Netflix craze with her lazy Goldendoodle, Benjamin. 

One Comment

  • Laura

    I think this is a wonderful philosophy. About once a month or so, a friend of mine will put down $20 at Tim Horton’s for coffee for the seniors that come in after him and another $20 at his neighbourhood convenience store for those $1 scratch tickets for seniors as well. The cashiers at both places know him and will tell him all about customers’ reactions. He loves hearing about how he’s made strangers smile and feels like he’s helping to remind the older generation that they are a valuable part of the community. If everyone could do something like this once in a blue moon, imagine the difference it would make in a city where we do, as you say, have “tunnel vision.” We could become a true community.

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