With our passion for social media, are we more connected or less connected than ever? We get so wrapped up telling our story, have we stopped connecting with people and listening?
About The Stranger Connection Winnipeg
This project is about putting down the phone, tablet and laptop. Its about going out and meeting people face to face. Its about talking with complete strangers we may pass by everyday. Listening to their story. Getting to know complete strangers so that they are no longer strangers.
Each stranger I have the opportunity to sit down with and talk to I will blog about. I will share their story. Their life experiences and whatever else comes out of our conversation.
I get quite a few people messaging me asking me about myself and my motivation behind starting The Stranger Connection Winnipeg. So I thought I would share my story:
My name is Carl Seier. I am a father to two incredible grown up daughters, a Winnipeg Real Estate Agent and avid runner, and someone passionate about Winnipeg.
After seeing a fellow marathoner pushing a wheelchair during a race, I was inspired to start ‘My Team Triumph Manitoba‘ in 2013. myTEAM TRIUMPH Manitoba is an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, and adults with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races. I purchased 3 running wheelchairs and myTEAM Triumph Manitoba was created. I take my running partner ‘Ally’ who has Cerebral Palsy out for weekly runs and have become a close friend of the family. Ally and I have participated together in several events including the Manitoba Marathon and have registered for ‘Color Me Rad‘ in May of 2016. We are always searching for people with disabilities to participate in events with us. If you know of someone that might enjoy this, please let me know.
In addition to that – I recently began the ‘Stranger Connection Winnipeg‘ in an effort to ‘connect’ people and make them more empathetic toward each other and aware that we never really know what someone else is going through, or what their story is. I have been quite surprised by the response to this project. People have really seemed to connect with these stories. The Facebook page has become quite popular in a very short period of time!
The whole pretense of The Stranger Connection Winnipeg is to get people to open up and be connect with one another. Put down their phones and IPads and engage.
I originally began thinking about starting this Project after my marriage fell apart and was trying to heal. During this time, I was running through Assiniboine Park and came upon a woman who was sitting on a park bench crying. At first, I ran right past her. Then I decided to turn around and ask if she was alright. She replied that she wasn’t, so I sat down with her and she shared her story. She was a stay at home Mom and had just discovered that her husband was having an affair and was leaving her. I could totally relate to her story. We sat and talked for an hour and a half and as a result, I believe we both felt better. I never did get that person’s name.
Another motivation for The Stranger Connection Winnipeg was when the McLean’s article came out declaring Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada. It was not the article itself, but rather the reaction to the article that I noticed. The reaction was so polarizing. Many people defending Winnipeg declaring “it isn’t that racist.” It was then I began to reflect on my life and realized that I have lived in Winnipeg my entire life, yet had no people in my social circle from the Indigenous community. Regardless of whether Winnipeg is the most racist city or the second, third or fourth; racism exists in Winnipeg. I felt like I was contributing to that racism by never really attempting to reach out to our Indigenous community. One of my goals with The Stranger Connection Winnipeg is to interview aboriginal people of Winnipeg. Share their stories. Ideally to connect everyone on a human level. Embracing diversity, but also showing that we are all not that different. Most importantly that we need to come together as a community.
Another reason for The Stranger Connection Winnipeg was social media. With Social Media, we have become very individualized and isolated with our ‘selfies’ and sharing how ‘wonderful’ our lives are for all the online world to see. We all know in reality this isn’t really the case. In the past we were usually in environments where we had the opportunity to connect and share. This is becoming less and less.
In my journey of healing I began to study ‘Empathy’. I spent many months reading about it and learning about what empathy is.
Empathy is the ability to sense other people’s emotions and the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. It’s the foundation of compassion. Without empathy, one cannot feel compassion.
Most literature talks of two types of empathy; cognitive and affective empathy. I am not going to recite the definitions of each, but rather give you my ideas on both.
Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand what people may be going through. In other words taking in another person’s perspective. Not necessarily having the desire to help or take action, but understanding another person’s perspective. I believe social media has caused many of us to be cognitive empathizers. We may comment on someone’s life, but do we really have the desire to help?
Effective empathy is our drive to respond to another person’s emotions. Not just acknowledging them, but wanting to help out. Taking action to effect change.
I believe the foundation of empathy is connecting with people. To connect, you need to listen and share. I passionately believe that we can all benefit from listening to another.
My hope For The Stranger Connection Winnipeg…
We are a small city. I’d like to see a movement within our city where people actually connect and talk to one another. Rather than being known as the racist city, we could become known as the city that actually spends time talking to one another outside of our regular social circles and practicing affective empathy. Once we begin to connect with one another, we will inevitably begin to care enough to want to help one another.
My goal is to create an empathy revolution in Winnipeg. What better way to start then to talk and listen to strangers.
– Carl Seier