How do we love thee, Humans of New York? Let us count the ways. For one thing, Hillary's on board. For another, HONY creator Brandon Stanton doesn't mince words when it comes to fighting racism and hate — on and off the internet. But most importantly, Stanton's Humans of New York blog and social media platforms — which showcase his portrait photography on the streets of NYC and elsewhere — seem to be some of the internet's last bastions of inclusivity, compassion, and straight-up humanity. It's true: Even the commenters are nice. And we know just how rare that is these days.
Stanton has noticed this surprising trend of niceness, too. Today he wrote on the Humans of New York Facebook page, "One thing that makes me most proud of Humans of New York is the warmth of the comment section. There are exceptions of course, but generally the responses to each story are thoughtful and encouraging. I joke that Humans of New York is followed by the nicest 25 million people on the Internet. Often, the comment section will take on a life and a narrative of its own."
A woman named Sofia (Victoria) Calderon Miller recently emailed Stanton to share her own real-life narrative that was profoundly changed by the HONY commenter community.
After trying to adopt a child for five years in three different countries, Miller was just about to give up when she saw a Humans Of New York post about a man who had grown up in a group home after being abandoned by his father. The man, whose story is below, endured harrowing abuse throughout his life in the facility, and was brutally injured when he tried to escape at age 17.
Miller was stunned by the man's story. She commented on the post, "I can't stop crying. I was about to give up on our adoption process. I will find inner strength to go on now... Somewhere, in some boys' house, my boy could be going through the same you went through and I just cannot give up on him right now."
"I thought, ‘He could have been my child,’' Miller later wrote in an email to Stanton. "I wrote about my difficulties [with adoption] in the comment section, and hundreds of people responded. Everyone told me not to give up. My phone was buzzing all day. The ones that touched me most were the stories from adopted children. It gave me the strength to go on.”
Miller adopted her son Axel last January, after he spent three years in an orphanage. She acknowledges that it has not been an easy road, especially in terms of "the difficulties of overcoming early neglect," but they're making tremendous progress as a family — and Axel is starting to learn what a permanent home really means. We can only hope that the man in the HONY photo that inspired Miller to forge ahead in the adoption process still has a chance to learn the same.
Just look at that smile.