What inspires you? Watching other people create turns me on to no end. Art. Fiction. A turn of phrase that makes me re-think what I believe, how I move, how I love and how I parent. A beautiful wall painted a particularly lovely shade of deep sea navy blue. New ways of doing simple yet vital things. Old ways of doing new things. Straight up my favourite thing this year, that has provided so many warm fuzzies (so bad it's so good), and so much inspiration, is The Stranger Project 2014.
I'm not the only one. Everybody in Vancouver is freaking out right now over Colin Easton. He's on the news. His Facebook page is being trampled and discovered hourly. What is he up to? He's talking to one stranger a day.
If my Grandpa Henderson was alive he would interrupt me to say, "...and?" I would remind him that in 2014 we live inside. We collapse into ourselves. When we walk, drive, commute and enfold ourselves into a crowded sidewalk, we have plugs jammed in our ears and our eyes down or fixed on a spot in the distance. We don't make eye contact. We briefly nod in elevators if at all. We are scared of each other. Well, it's ok to cross the street to avoid the stroll trolls, but that's a topic I'll let my buddy Tom hit on.
As a writer I hate that my curiosity for other people and their lives hits a dead end with my reluctance to engage with anyone I don't know.
I don't have the ball sac to do what Colin does but I did get the chance to bug him about this incredibly beautiful gig he's started. My wise friend Sam told me once that running a straight Q & A Blog Post is lazy writing. I do agree, but every one of Colin's words resonated so hard with me that I want to give them all to you to devour too.
Has the Stranger Project been easier than you thought or harder?
The Stranger Project plays on my nerves and confidence every day. At first I wondered what I had set myself up for, but considering that the hardest day took me approaching seven people before someone would talk to me, really it's easier than I might have thought.
I'm very project driven and a couple of years ago I did a photography project, just for myself, and shared it on my personal Facebook page for friends and family. I have a weird personality quirk wherein if i promise to do something every day, I seem to be able to commit and follow through (unless it involves better eating or going to the gym/yoga).
For this project, now on Day 19 (now 22), I find I get excited and can't wait to get out on the street to get it done and meet another new friend!
Has it changed how you walk down the street?
There's definitely been a noticeable 'change' or shift, if you will, in my demeanour. I am very aware that I'm smiling more at people, even after I've met a stranger for that day. I've recognized that if I want to have people open up and share their stories with me, then I have to be open. And it's kind of contagious. Nice breeds nicer. I walk a little lighter, my head held a little higher and definitely with a sense of accomplishment as I walk away from meeting that day's new friend!
What was the light bulb moment that made you REALLY get it together and start this project?
I had been thinking about doing a project for a while, and a good friend of mine
has an amazing eye for capturing portraits of people on the street. He spends time talking with them, demonstrates an interest in who they are and what their story is and then asks to take their picture. He truly is able to capture the light in their eyes, or their pain, but mostly its a joy he seems to connect with, and there's a real warmth and humanity in his pictures. He told me that at the end of his conversation he always says "next time you see me, make sure you say hello, 'cause we're friends now."
What really struck me was how simple that is, and how potentially profound that can be for someone who may not otherwise have connected with someone in that genuine way that day, or even longer. It was the human connection that struck me.
I was at home on New Years Day. It was a nice day, I wanted to go for a walk, I didn't know where and I just thought, "Ok, let's do this!"
I spent about 20 minutes or so figuring out what I would do, and off I went. I met the first person, Patrick, right outside my apartment building. It seemed so right and so "universe sending a sign" that I knew I wanted to continue. I also gave myself permission to make mistakes (typing and grammar aren't my strengths) and I knew it would develop and find it's own legs... Now it's running and its only 19 (now 22) days old!
What has been the most gratifying part and the most disappointing?
The most gratifying aspect of The Stranger Project 2014 has really been the connections I've made, and the stories people are willing to share with me. And then, the follow-up; people seeing their friends and adding comments. One fellow discovered stuff he didn't know about someone he went to film school with. Watching the number of people following the Facebook page go from 200 to almost 1000 in three days, and the incredible feedback I've gotten from people from as far as Nova Scotia, and one person from England! Mind-blowing!
I don't screen people that I approach; I don't wander around looking for someone that I think "oh, s/he'll talk to me." I try to approach the first person I see and if I sense even the slightest hesitation, I give them the out. I want people to be comfortable with me; that's the only way I'll get to share in their stories. That said, I guess the only disappointment I can think of is I wonder what stories I've not heard from the people that didn't want to talk to me.
The only other thing that might be considered a disappointment is that I'm not able to do this every day all day, and that I have to do another job to allow me to do this. Stay tuned though....