Street Style Therapy - Spreading Smiles

To understand this story, one must know a little about me. As a child, I was painfully shy, too sentimental, and would always be far too anxiety ridden to go up to those outside my group of friends and begin talking to them. I never understood why the thought of interacting with a stranger made my heart race, or why the thought of giving away old toys made me panic. This year, my sophomore year of college, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. After this diagnosis, I vowed to myself that I would venture out of my comfort zone and I would dare to interact with more people. 

"The Giving Keys" provided me with the perfect opportunity to make myself to truly follow through on these things. When I first got a key, engraved with the word "DREAM", the thought of giving it away made me panic a little. Interacting with a stranger and then giving them something that I loved was still a hard concept for my mind.

About three weeks after I received the key, I was driving to Venice Beach to pick up food. Stopped at a red light, I saw a guy who was no older than 25 on the side of the road with a sign that simply said, "Smile Damn It!" Not able to help myself, I smiled at him, and he smiled back. For a moment I thought about giving him my key, but instead I pulled out $5 and rolled down my window, though his sign did not ask for money. He quickly ran over and, with a huge smile, said, "Thank you, sweetheart!" before taking it.

For the entire rest of my drive, I could not stop thinking about him, and how he seemed to simply want to spread joy. On my way back, I decided that, if he was still there, I was going to stop and ask if I could take a photo of him and his sign. When I saw that he was, I quickly pulled over and got out. I introduced myself, and he introduced himself as Alex, along with his friend Gypsy and their dog Shylo, and told me that they simply travel around the country.

After taking a few photos, I told him that I had thought about giving him my key necklace, but figured the money would do more good for him. Hearing that I had a key, his eyes lit up. He told me that he collects keys, and picks them up whenever he finds one on the street. I quickly took off my "DREAM" key and handed it to him. As soon as Alex received the key, Shylo jumped up on him, and he told her, "We're going to have sweets dreams tonight, aren't we?"

Not only do I feel like my key did something good for a group of people traveling the country trying to spread some smiles, but it also did immense good for me. I am extremely grateful for the challenge the keys have provided for me.

- Annie

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