Be Kind to Your Fellow Commuters

other self photo

Photo: tfl

Public transport is great. When it's good it is fast, easy, stress-free, you can get a seat and withdraw into your own world. And when it's bad: rude, nasty, pushy, smelly, etc. etc.

But artist Michael Landy is out to improve the civility on subways. Starting now, he is encouraging commuters to commit "Acts of Kindness" by submitting short stories of kindness that they have seen or experienced on the Central line of the London subway system.

central line photo

Photo: tfl

He will then make a selection of the stories in the coming months and starting in late July, place them in 6 stations for others to read about, and hopefully be inspired. He hopes that the number of stories to look out for will gradually build over the coming months as more people catch on.

michael landy photo

Photo: tfl

Why his he doing this and why is it important? The artist says that he was "looking for the right situation to explore what value kindness has, what it means, and what kind of exchange is involved in giving someone a helping hand."

Most of us on the subway tend to disappear into our own little world, either reading the paper or listening to music. But his project captures and celebrates the small interactions between strangers that make us feel connected with each other. He calls it an acknowledgement of our shared humanity. "This project is about feeling a sense of being connected to each other. That's what "kindness" means - we're kin, we're of one kind."

It was spurred on by seeing two strangers, one trying to help the other. He realized how easy it would be to turn away, as we have all done, but instead they didn't. He started wondering what causes one stranger to be kind to another; why did they step out of their bubble and help someone whom they didn't even know. "Acts of Kindness" is a way of exploring that idea, and getting some answers.

As he explains "Sometimes we tend to assume that you have to be superhuman to be kind, rather than just an ordinary person." The stories will celebrate these little exchanges that are almost too fleeting or commonplace to notice, but are important to creating and continuing a civil society.

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