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How is it that the briefest connections in our lives can sometimes be the most important ones?

That’s a theme I’ve been thinking about lately. I realized that if I hadn’t said hello many years ago to an attractive and distinguished stranger, I would never have met my husband. We often have only seconds to make a decision about whether we or not we’re going to connect with someone.

You could argue that any particular connection is—or isn’t—meant to be, that these moments hang on fate, or grace, or some other force outside you. Or you could argue that each of us has tremendous power to affect the quality of our own lives—and the lives of others—and that making the choice to step out of your comfort zone to speak to a stranger can frequently change your life for the better.

The more I thought about this theme, the more I began to wonder how attitudes about relating to strangers have changed over time. And that made me curious to see if stories about encounters with strangers were reported in the news back in 19th century America.

As I searched for newspaper articles, I discovered that they certainly were. Many different journalists wrote many types of stranger stories. This particular one spoke to me and made me smile. I think it will make you smile, too. It’s a beautiful story called “Strange But True” about a beggar who asked a stranger for money—and created a whole new, abundant life for himself by making this encounter one of genuine connection.

“Strange But True” was written for the Detroit Free Press and was reprinted in The Milwaukee Sentinel on October 2, 1899. Notice its charming, descriptive details and language:Mil