This is the first post from Sarah and Greg of American Bear. I am grateful and honored that they have agreed to join our hug community. I look forward to their monthly posts and I know you will too!
The strangest part was all the showers. There’s something very intimate about using someone else’s shower, maybe the vulnerability or the way you leave so refreshed, or your proximity to their personal hygiene products. Or maybe we were just always very grateful for the invitation, since we never knew when the next one would come along.
Two years ago, we (Sarah and Greg) traveled around the country by relying on the kindness of strangers for a home each night. We had a car, some money we’d raised for food, and a camera to turn the adventure into a feature film, but the certainties ended there. Every day we were in a new town, meeting dozens of people, and hoping our optimism would pay off – rather, that people really were as friendly and helpful as we believed they were.
Before we set out to make the film, we had friends and family members predict that all our nights would end in the car; they encouraged us to bring a gun; they wondered if anyone other than free-spirited college students like us would give us the time of day. These doubts spurred us on just as much as the great history of adventure, brotherhood, and the American myth of freedom that have gotten blurred in our growing twenty-first century culture of fear. We believe that people are inherently good – we can always be better, but most of us are seeking connection, and kindness is the easiest way to reach a stranger.
Our faith in others was re-inspired and expanded by our experience: we found a home nearly every night, as wide-ranging as a floor in our sleeping bags, a guest bedroom, and an RV. We were often treated to meals, tours of town, and community events. From the simple fact that we were looking for a place to sleep, many people opened their homes and their hearts to us, revealing generosity and compassion far exceeding our simple cause and effect experiment. Perhaps most importantly, kindness manifested itself through sharing items of intangible value: personal stories, hugs, friendship.
Now we are on a quest to create that space for others. A space to have those realizations, to depend on strangers, to realize that kindness, though incredibly simple and sometimes even easy, takes bravery and can be incredibly rewarding. Face to face connection, human interaction, its important to our lives. Sometimes we forget that.
And that mission has lead to even more lessons. Each time we host an event, do a fundraiser, give out a sticker on the subway, we learn something new. Its amazing.
So we want our monthly blog posts to be a space for those lessons, those stories. Because really they are all just amazing stories.
Its true that most people we met didn’t welcome us into their homes – it was definitely select few in the scheme of things. We want to both recognize kindness and promote it, to spread it and share it, so that our story doesn’t have to be such a surprise. Join us! And Melinda, because she is working towards a similar goal. And until you can work up the courage to speak to a stranger, hug a stranger, write a letter to a stranger, we are here to do it for you, with you. Let us know when you are ready to get involved.
To learn more about American Bear and watch the trailer for the film visit americanbearfilm.com (hot link)
They are also very active on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BearDocumentary) and twitter (@RelyonStrangers) and send out weekly missions and inspirational messages daily. If you ask nicely they will even mail you some awesome stickers.
Check out their short mini doc series exploring the science and sociology behind kindness, fear, trust and all things American Bear. This episode is about facial hair (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8-Om_5RWAY).
Sarah and Greg love meeting strangers, email us if you want to connect: firstname.lastname@example.org