For eight hours straight we walked around NYC and smiled at every person we came across. Could we make them smile? Could we bring a moment of happiness to their life?
People do not smile at other people in New York. Maybe it's because NYC residents are said to be the unhappiest people in the country. Or maybe it's a learned behavior. New York was also voted the rudest city, after all. Maybe it's a side effect of exhaustion: NYC-dwellers are known for being overworked and ambitious, and are always moving at a fast pace; we're probably just too tired to acknowledge — let alone converse with — the thousands of strangers that we pass by each day. Whatever the reason, there's no place that this cold NYC attitude is more evident than on the subways, which inspired us to hang these signs all over the train stations:
Each morning, I dread starting my day underground, sandwiched in a between dozens of people who wear a lifeless expression I like to call the “subway face.” It’s like a “poker face” but with a bit more exhaustion, depression, and anger. People can also be downright rude on the subway, especially on the morning commute. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen pregnant ladies or elderly people board the train and no one that's sitting offers their seat to them. I'd like to think we New Yorkers are kind deep down, but the subway strips somehow manage to strip all humanity from us.
I've found myself bouncing out of bed each morning looking forward to all of these weird experiments we've been doing, especially compared to the year prior where I found myself walking through the same routine: wake up, go to work, shut off my brain in the evening by consuming culture, repeat. It's been a while now since the last time I felt this inspired to do out-of-the-ordinary shit and constantly make stuff.
Tim and I have been preparing for step 12, when we are going to attempt to do something larger than ourselves. Can we actually use our tools as designers to start a larger dialogue now that we've gone through these steps confronting our own selfishness and apathy? Can design be used as a tool to advocate change? While I am often pessimistic, these last steps of kindness have shown me that it's often the small things that can make a big difference. At the very least, it never hurts to try. As I said before, all of life is an experiment.
We'd love for you to participate in this 12-step journey with us. Step eleven is about making strangers smile, in whatever way you can. Comment below or tag #12kindsofkindness on social media and let us know your stories. We'd love to hear them!
Feel free to use the artwork / quotes above to share your story on social, you can download them all on the 12 Kinds of Kindness Tumblr.