There are some evils to social media, but every now and then, one finds a treasure. One such nugget of gold is Humans of New York. Or, in this age of acronyms, HONY. A blog/facebook page started by Brandon Stanton about five years ago, it’s comprised of photographs… portraits of the people of NY… with a small story about their lives in their own words.
Lately, there have been posts from other countries as Brandon has travelled… recently to Turkey where he interviewed Syrian refugees. I cannot do these stories justice… they are poignant reminders of how similar we all are and yet how different a variable can change the course of a personal history. Today’s seems to be stuck in my head.
We look at these stories and are grateful to live where we can rest our head in peace at night. Where we can know our neighbors and be part of a community. Where we can work for our pay and pay for our needs. Where we can get health care that saves lives. Where we have each other.
As I work on this, another part of this refugee’s story pops up on HONY. Each hour, another segment of a story that cannot be contained. No longer is this a tale about the war, about his livelihood, about loss. It’s about his cancer. There are eerie similarities to Rich’s. But this man does not have the resources we do. He does not have the support of the caring people surrounding him. And yet, in many ways his journey is ours.
This fear we know, this pain we know. We are blessed with the ignorance of the experience of war, of the losses or the trauma. But of cancer we do not have an ignorance.. we know it too well.
HONY is the story of all of us… who we are as humans and how hope and perseverance… and sometimes despair… can bring us all together. It is not only the stories that shed light on the spirit, it is also the comments. The support for all the featured interviewees is overwhelming in its positivity. I want to know the people who are featured in these photos and stories. I want to know the people who comment so eloquently. I want to know the commenters who go beyond words and take action. I am proud to be friends, real friends, with people who also follow HONY. I see the grace that is in their hearts. I’m proud to live in a society where this is possible.
HONY is a non-political blog/fb page, devoid of judgment. When the headlines scream hatred, this is a sanctuary of reason. It is humanity at its best.
As we read of these sometimes heart-rending stories that reflect dignity beyond measure, we also take a moment to remember, as many do at this time of year, those whose journeys on this earth have come to an end. Some have traveled alongside us on our path to health. We mourn our loss, for it is indeed our loss, and throw out to the universe the hope for strength for their loved ones. It reminds us of the fragile hold we have on this plane of existence. We honor them and their lives…. we honor their presence in our lives. We vow to pull into ourselves strength to continue forward to honor their memory. We think: what would their story have been on HONY? What paragraph would they have offered that would have reflected their experience? What would ours be? Would there be dignity or would we reflect instead on our current poopathon that, despite the frustrations, makes us giggle?
I guess really the truest question is what story would we WANT to offer? How can we make that story happen? How can we learn perseverance, dignity and humanity in a recovery from a process that literally tries to strip all of that from you? How do we manifest the future we want for ourselves?
Thich Nhat Hanh, author of “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” always comes to mind when debating this within myself. And always I hear him say “Because you are alive, everything is possible.”