If your boss challenged you to ”do something good”, there are a thousand different possibilities. Organize a food drive, read stories to children at a hospital, volunteer at an animal shelter. But what if there was an addendum? “Do something good…famously.” Well, that changes things, now doesn’t it? You can’t just video bomb the local weather report wearing a sandwich board if you want to impress your boss.
I did something real good yesterday – I ate the last cupcake in the kitchenette at work, so that it wouldn’t get fought over. Out of the kindness of my heart.
Three interns at BBH, an advertising agency in New York, were given this challenge. It was up to them what sort of good they chose to do, but they had to do it publicly.
Underheard In New York is what the interns, Rosemary Melchior, Willy Wang and Robert Weeks, came up with. Their “good” would be to bring awareness to not just homelessness in New York, but to the homeless people themselves. Humanize them. Dispel all the jokes you hear and tell about why they’re there and what they do with themselves while they’re on the streets. Most people walk past the people they see living on the streets, ignoring them or looking down and judging them for the situation they’re in. But they are people, too, on the streets for different reasons, all with their own story to tell.
The interns’ take on ”famous”? They decided “famous was just another way of saying make people listen. Go big. Be heard. Make real change.” That sounds like Twitter to me and it did to them, too. It is 2011, afterall. Much can be said in 140 characters or less (for better or for worse), and their aim with Underheard (@underheardinny on Twitter) is to use Twitter to give a voice to some of New York’s homeless population.
Rosemary, Willy, and Robert met with NYC Rescue Mission, who put them in touch with four men, all of whom slept at the Mission at night. They provided the men with simple flip phones with basic access to Twitter via a month’s worth of unlimited texting, gave them rudimentary instruction on how to use it, and asked them to reach out to the world with their thoughts.
Danny (@putodanny), Derrick (@awitness2011), Albert (@albert814), and Carlos (@jessie550) have embraced the project, tweeting about their day’s activities, wishing everyone a happy Valentine’s Day, and interacting with their followers. Each of them are documenting their daily challenges – from searching for employment, and shelter, and food – and giving thanks for what they do have.
@jessie550 im a certified Paralegal…n i work w corporations n individuals to recover their outstanding receiveabls..I do private invstgatn
@putodanny Today is a lonly day for a homles person noone to talkto i wich i can bewithsomebody love always putodanny
@awitness2011 I had dinner at the NYCRM, and I am now beding down for the night. I thank GOD for the meal, hot shower and bed.
@putodanny Rober today was a good day beacuse god permited for me to be a live and enjoy the beaty of his creation god is good
Each have a small but growing following of people who are eager to learn about their lives and to understand how being homeless is an ongoing struggle to survive.
Kind of makes me kind of wince at all my tweets complaining about what I ate for lunch.