I live in a loud city and I felt the weight of the silence crushing me. I would plug into a podcast in the morning and try not to make eye contact as I scanned my card and shuffled my way to the nearest seat on the bus. I noticed that other people would do the same. Every once and a while something would happen that required a conversation.
I dropped the lid of my chapstick into the lap of the women to my right and we both laughed uncomfortably. We smiled at each other and it felt like relief—a connection. She took this chance to start a conversation, “Beautiful day isn’t it?”Something as simple as the weather was easy enough to pull us into a longer chat.
We were told not to talk to strangers and we obeyed. In the city, it’s like thousands of lonely people brush shoulders with one another without acknowledgment. People live in their heads, on their phones, and with their eyes cast downward. Despite all of this, it can take tragedy or trauma to bring us together. We crave human connection more than anything.
I decided to talk to strangers. I asked people on the streets of Toronto, Canada: “If I were to pass your words on to another stranger, what would you say?” What happened next would forever change my outlook on the people I walk by every day.
How Tragedy and Kindness Inspired Toronto Words.
This project was born out of both tragedy and love. The tragedy happened on April 23, 2018, when a man in a rental van intentionally hit and killed 10 innocent pedestrians. I wondered how someone could dehumanize people this way. He didn’t know them and he didn’t know their story—they were strangers.
The triumph happened on May 8, 2018, when I was sitting in the park eating lunch. A stranger joined a homeless man at a park table and they talked about their lives for an hour, sipping coffee and picking at croissants. This didn’t make the news.
I wondered how we could walk by strangers with detachment and yet have the capacity to connect in powerful ways. How could cities be filled with people who felt so isolated?
We All Have a Story.
I began to see every person I passed as a person with a unique story to tell. I knew that it was my responsibility to ask them about it. If strangers wouldn’t talk to one another, I would do it for them.
I decided to approach strangers and ask them for words of wisdom from their life experience, that I would then pass along to another stranger. It took me weeks to gain the courage to approach someone but the result was more life-changing than I anticipated.
See the full story here: www.instagram.com/torontowords/
“I think there’s a global movement happening. I think people are waking up. You know, you can read books about it but that’s just about other people’s experiences. You have to really go out and live those experiences. We finish school and we’re told we have to work and make a living until we die. I want to do something I love and I want to help other people. Because in the end, this around us, this is all a construct, and these conversations are what really matters. You could have kept walking and I could have kept walking and we would have never had this conversation. Now we can both walk away with something.”#TorontoWords
“It’s a being, it’s something that is so huge. I believe we came from love and back to love we will go. We’re living out our lives and we have to function in love, we can’t function in anything else.” #torontowords
“I was having a hard time letting go of a lot of things in my life before, but I spent the last few months of my life learning to just let those things go and it’s made my life better.” #torontowords
“It’s helped me immensely in the past year.”#TorontoWords