November 12th, 2010
03:53 PM ET

iReport #BeAHero challenge: Be kind to a stranger

Editor's Note: Learn about the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010 and vote for the CNN Hero of the Year at

A few hours ago, iReporter Miguel Rezende in Lisbon, Portugal, sent us a touching story today about a local man who spent hours each day on one of the biggest avenues in Lisbon, smiling and waving goodbye to people passing by on foot or by car.

In the beginning, people thought he was "not lucid," Rezende said. But they came to know him as just a shy, lonely man, looking for companionship. (You can see him in action and talking about his life in a short documentary that local film students made a few years ago, with English subtitles.)

João Manuel Serra, or “Senhor do Adeus” as he was known, died on Wednesday at the age of 80, after at least 15 years of waving to people. The local evening news did a story about him, and in his tribute, on Thursday, hundreds of fans went to the spot where he usually stood, Rezende said. They also created a Facebook page for him that has nearly 13,000 fans.

"It was very emotional to see so many people missing him," Rezende said. "This person made a lot of people happy when he was there."

We've been offering tiny "Be A Hero" challenges that you can do to make the world a little better.

For the next one, take a page from Mr. Serra’s life and reach out to a stranger. Wave, smile, say hello, or strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never met. Feel free to tell us about it in the comments below, or on iReport.

"Maybe if we would do that more often, we would surprise ourselves to find that the stranger is actually a very nice person," Rezende said.

Filed under: #BeaHero • TV-CNN Heroes
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Lauren

    I worked at a bank in a relatively small town. There was a man who sits across the street and waves at passers by all day, every day. He was a sweat old man and loves it when people stop and talk to him. But that was there, here in a city, someone doing that would be cause for concern. The police would be called instantly and he would be in the care of senior services.

    November 14, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ally

    The picture they used for the article doesn't do a good job getting the point across. Of course it's easier to greet strangers when they're HOT lol. I think both people in the pic have other things on their mind than a simple greeting 😛

    November 14, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • ES

      Ally, I was thinking the same as you. . . . funny.

      November 14, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Marie Mack

    In my Midwestern home town, people were always friendly, exchanged waves when passing, chatted amicably when standing in line. I carried that with me to Florida and discovered friendly overtures were, constantly, misinterpreted. I worked for a recycling company for years right near a Miami Int'l Airport & saw a source of aluminum cans usually discarded after flights. Since all trash had to be collected then removed from the plane anyway, I proposed simply placing the aluminum in a separate collection bags on the plane and bins in the airport where the recycling company would just pick them up saving the airport on trash collection fees. "It will never work, I was told, flight attendants are too dour & uncooperative." I dropped the matter. Years later, (post-recycling company) I witnessed my rejected plan in action on a flight I was taking. Just in the interest of sharing life's experiences, I told my (years ago) story to the flight attendant who responded by very coldly telling me that their discarded aluminum cans were already spoken for so my company couldn't have them! It NEVER occurred to her that I was just being friendly; she assumed I must be trying to GET something from her . . .

    November 15, 2010 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. dee

    Okay, if you want to sit on a street corner and wave to people, fine. But get real people. Times HAVE changed! The same thing we tell our kids applies to us for the same reason. It's DANGEROUS to talk to strangers! The world will not be in a better place if we think we can "make a difference" to speak to a stranger on the street.

    November 15, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Patti

    Just speaking "hello" to someone as you make eye contact and walk by will not get you mugged! Most department store greeters are told to make eye contact and speak to incoming customers. It's a fact that if they do that the average shoplifter will NOT shoplift then. I speak to folks all the time in passing in the store and on the street. Usually I get a surprised 'hello' back and a smile. You can't go through life fearing EVERYONE that you don't already know. You'll never meet any new! And somewhere along the way, your relative who introduced you to the new person had to meet them for the first time as a stranger. Think about it. Maybe the whole world won't be a better place; but your little world would be better.

    November 16, 2010 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
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