If you’ve ever been on any social media, you’ve heard of Humans of New York.
If not, (and get with it, peeps) it’s a photoblog project by one man who is on a mission to photograph real people of New York and share a snippet of their real life stories. It has evolved into a vehicle for world awareness and philanthropy and there are imitators in practically every city, but there is something mysterious about New York that can’t be replicated. It’s raw, joyful and heartbreaking all at once. Today’s posts on the HONY blog really spoke to me; here is one of them:
“I’m OK now, because we’re speaking in generalities, but if you were to ask me about anything specific, like names or dates, I wouldn’t be able to remember them. My mother had it too. It was ten years of her not knowing who anybody was. And I don’t want to be remembered like that. That’s why I’m sitting here alone. I used to have a lot of friends, but I’ve withdrawn from all of them. Group situations are especially hard because I can’t steer the conversation toward something I can remember. And when I do get stuck, it’s more embarrassing. So I’ve missed weddings. I’ve stopped returning calls. I do have one friend who won’t give up on me. He calls me from Florida. And if I’m trying to tell him about a bridge, he’ll list off every bridge in New York City until I remember the one that I’m trying to talk about.”
This is one of the more heartbreaking posts I’ve seen, featuring a man suffering from what appears to be Alzheimers or a similar condition. But what he says about his one friend who doesn’t give up on him struck a chord in me, maybe because as a military child keeping in touch with people became such a normal, necessary thing. I feel like it’s not something that comes naturally to everyone and it definitely wouldn’t come easy to me if I wasn’t forced to do it by having such a transient community growing up. “Keep in touch!” is such an often-used cliche that we forget that it actually means “please keep being my friend” and “please keep being part of my life” and “please don’t give up on this relationship.”
Keeping in touch is hard now that I’m an adult. Everyone is taking different paths in life and more and more you’re required to go out of your way to keep up with people – it can even be inconvenient as much as you hate that. It seems like it should be easier in this world of social media and instant communication, but is it? Does liking someone’s instagram picture hold the same value as calling them during your busy week? No. But if I’ve learned anything from that lifestyle I’ve learned it’s important. And not just keeping in touch, but being intentional about it and relentless in compassion.
I’m inspired to never be the friend that gives up and to always be the one to list all the bridges. K.I.T.