Along with millions of others, I’ve been captivated by the social media project Humans of New York. Photographer Brandon Stanton photographs random people he encounters throughout New York City, and, given the phenomenal success, he’s gone on trips to other parts of the world as well.
All of his photos and stories are as unique as the people in them, yet I’ve noticed a commonality: In many of the posts people find to be inspiring, there is a Someone. Whether it’s a supportive teacher, a loving significant other, or a kind stranger who showed up at the right time, many of the people Stanton photographs have been deeply influenced and changed by someone taking an interest in them. Usually not taking an interest in a passing, fleeting way, but a deep, passionate care for who they are as a human being.
Everyone needs a Someone.
We don’t all need the same kinds of Someones, or for the same reasons or at the same times, but we all need those people–or at the very least, that person–who sees the real us when others do not. I truly believe there would be a lot less ugly, painful messiness in the world if everyone paid more attention to the people around them, because humans were not meant to navigate this hazardous journey of life completely alone. It’s not that people can fully save us; they can’t. But they can certainly help us. They can see the good in us when we’ve lost the ability to see it for ourselves, they can challenge us to be braver and kinder and better than we think we can, and can help direct us back when we’ve lost our way.
We need other people.
It can be a vulnerable, scary, intimidating thing to admit we need other people. We’re often told we can succeed all on our own, and to some level we can, but there will always come a time we simply can’t anymore. So we need someone else to step in for us. And that’s more than okay. It can be absolutely beautiful.
Some of us, and I count myself among them, are ridiculously fortunate to have a whole host of Someones–good, loving, caring people who watch out for us. Others don’t have that luxury. So not only does everyone need a Someone, we have the opportunity to be a Someone, too. One of my recent favorites from Humans of New York is this one.
“Both my parents were in prison while I was growing up. I’ve been in prison for 90% of my life, mainly for drugs. When I got out in 2014, there was this old lawyer in the Bronx who took an interest in me. His name was Ramon Jimenez. He’s kind of like a community activist. I don’t know why he cared so much, but he sat down with me and tried to map out my life. When I tried to start selling drugs again, Ramon came out and stood on the corner with me for three days straight. Here’s this 72 year old dude, shadowing me wherever I go, screaming at anyone who tried to walk up to me: ‘I’m calling the cops!’ I was so mad. But after three days I gave it up.”
It’s one of those stories I wish we had more of–who is this Ramon guy, really? How did he get connected with the man in the photograph? Why did he care so much?
As much as I’d like to know that information, it’s almost superfluous to the story. Ramon cared. He showed up. He became a Someone to this man who needed one.
That’s all we really need.
It’s okay to need a Someone, and it’s possible to be one. We don’t all need to be superheroes, but we can be a Someone.
Til next time…
p.s. Have you had a Someone in your life?