When we first discovered Humans Of New York, we couldn't help but feel something powerful take over. This was one extraordinary and simple tale proving to have a BIG impact on the world. Brandon Stanton, the founder of Humans of New York began this project during the summer of 2010 with intentions to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map.
Now he's a 31-year old New Yorker with over 8 million followers on social media alone, providing a worldwide audience with a daily glimpse into the lives of strangers in New York City.
The stories from Humans of New York have proven just how inspiring and thought-provoking society could be. So we decided, what better way to showcase some of the best HONY stories, than by reflecting on what essential life lessons they’ve taught us…
WE ALL START OUT AS STRANGERS, BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER.
There are incredible people out there willing to make a difference in this world of ours. We see it every day; strangers turned into friends, strangers into lovers and the best of all – a stranger’s act of kindness for the greater good of humanity.
“I’ve always liked to do nice things for strangers. I worked in the mail room at my college dorm, and whenever I emailed a package notification, I’d always add a little something extra. Like an awesome shark pic. Or a link to Japanese jazz. Lately I’ve been doing this thing where I buy really weird antique post cards, write poems on them, and mail them to random people I find in the white pages. The first time I sent one, I added a full-page disclaimer because I was worried some old person would think it was from ISIS and call the cops. I basically wrote: ‘Don’t worry. It’s art. Everything’s cool. You won’t be hearing from me again.’”
EQUALITY FOR ALL REGARDLESS OF SEX, AGE, RELIGION AND RACE.
Come on 2016 – we’re pleading equality for all. Same-sex marriage should be legalised throughout the world. Less hate, more love, please. Love is love and we’ve got our fingers crossed for more countries to legalise same-sex marriage in the coming years.
“It’s our first date. We met on Fire Island. I wasn’t even planning on going out that night. I’d already drank half a bottle of Johnny Black so I was just going to stay in and read my Chelsea Handler book, but my friends promised to bake me cookies if I went to the club with them. So I went to buy three bags of cookie dough, and when I finally got to the club all my friends were making out with somebody, so I was like ‘this sucks,’ and I just started dancing by myself and eating the cookie dough. Then I saw him by the DJ booth and we made eye contact so I went over and started sharing my cookie dough. We never actually spoke. Then a few months later I ran into him on the subway.”
DO NOT TAKE YOUR HEALTH FOR GRANTED.
Looking after your body, mind and soul may prove to be one of the most important relationships you’ll ever have. Your mental health is important. It’s okay to seek help and sometimes life knocks you down, but it’s a beautiful journey and the human kind is one of the most resilient forces on earth. Support one another, you never know how hard of a battle someone is fighting out there.
“I’ve been having nerve issues, and this past year it’s gotten so bad that it hurts too much for me to walk. It was completely unexpected. I’ve always been such an optimistic person, but now I’m fighting with depression. He’s doing everything he can to take my mind off of it. We’re not sure if I’m going to get better, but he’s planning a backpacking tour through Europe for when I do. And I told him that I didn’t think I could handle a visit to New York right now, but he told me that he’d push me around the whole city. And he has. And whenever I feel particularly down, he tells me that he’s not going anywhere, and how happy he is that he married me. Not long ago I had a particularly rough period, and when I was at one of my lowest moments, he asked if we could renew our vows.”
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IN THE 21st CENTURY.
We are brought into this planet as children, with sheer simplicity and vulnerability. Brendan himself, the founder of HONY built his empire by following his passions – photography, people and New York. Despite the tragedy that continues to unfold, there has been no better time to be alive than now. Anything is possible. The world is in its golden age, take what you want from it.
EDUCATION IS THE GATEWAY TO ENDLESS OPPORTUNITIES
Education, just like travelling, is one of life’s greatest privileges. If you’re lucky enough to do either, take it with a grain of salt and seek every opportunity that comes your way. Education, after all, is the only way we can reduce poverty and inequality in this world.
“We teach that education is a great privilege that can lead anywhere, but sometimes I worry that I might be selling them a dream. So I try to teach them what’s possible, but also what’s real. They need to learn that hard work leads to success. But I also tell them that they might need to be a bit more patient than others. Sometimes they ask hard questions, and I try to answer as honestly as possible. A few weeks ago, I was teaching a lesson about segregation, and one of my students raised his hand. He said: ‘If segregation is over, then why are there only black kids at our school?’”
LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. AND FATE IS A POWERFUL THING.
Is all fair in love and war? Do you believe in fate? Are we destined to love the people we love? Or is it purely coincidental? However you interpret ‘love’, Humans Of New York gives us an extraordinarily simple and heartfelt glimpse into what it means to love and find love.
“SOME PEOPLE ARE OLD AT 18 AND SOME ARE YOUNG AT 19. TIME IS A CONCEPT THAT HUMANS CREATED.”
Thanks to Yoko Ono’s words of wisdom, this quote couldn’t ring more truth. Time is of the essence. You are only as old and young as you feel. Choose to be happy and learn a new skill; one that keeps you fit, one that makes you money and one that keeps you creative. Whatever it is, find it and let it ignite your spirit.
“I’m different than other people. I’m never sad. I make my life happy through discipline. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I eat lots of fiber. Every day I take a walk in the park to think about my balance. I've been a chef, a fashion designer, a painter, and now I’m learning martial arts. I do Tai Chi in the park every morning. It helps give me energy for my painting. I have already learned forty-two moves. I’m ahead of everyone. I’m almost eighty years old, but all the women in my group think I’m in my fifties.”
EMBRACE WHO YOU ARE.
Do you ever look around and notice just how different we all really are? It’s not a one-size fits all. Collectively we’re all colourful creatures like pieces of a puzzle. No-one in this world is a replica of you. Call it what you want and as cliche as it may sound – but this is your world, don’t let someone dictate who you should be.
Whatever you do, whoever you are, embrace it.
TRAVELLING OPENS UP OUR EYES TO NEW CULTURES, EXPERIENCES AND A DIFFERENT WAY OF LIFE.
It’s one of the greatest gifts and lessons in the world. Open up your mind to new ideas, cultures and people. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings in the world – to be immersed in something that isn’t your own.
"I have a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy. Now I want to learn as many languages as possible so I can teach as many people as possible." "What do you think is the most important thing that people can learn from Buddhism?" "Compassion. Everyone suffers and everyone needs happiness." (Dharamshala, India)