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Conversations with strangers helping people learn about the 'Humans of St. Louis'

"Does violence happen in St. Louis? Of course. But we’re also here to show that’s not all of St. Louis. There’s so much more."

ST. LOUIS — There is an ongoing effort to give people a chance to speak up and be heard. The project is called “Humans of St. Louis” and it focuses on ordinary everyday people.

Lindy Drew is the founder.

“It's really beautiful to highlight everyday folks in the city,” said Drew. “It’s fun, every day is different.”

On any given day, she musters up the courage to walk up and talk to someone.

“It can be a little intimidating to approach someone,” she said.

Drew approaches them with her camera and her notebook in hand and she strikes up a conversation with the person.

“Let’s just talk about something. We just get into it,” she said.

The subjects they get into can be wide ranging.

“People are choosing what they want to talk about,” she told 5 On Your Side.

The conversations can be eye opening.

“Sometimes they’ll come out with their deepest darkest secrets,” said Humans of St. Louis editor Dessa Somerside.

The disclosures can also be a learning experience for others.

“We can use the story as a lesson for someone else,” said Drew.

Drew started listening to the stories from strangers a few years ago.

“It started out as a fun art project,” she explained.

Humans of St. Louis grew into a 501c3 nonprofit and it has drawn a lot of interest. The project has a following of over 130,000 on their social media platforms. Followers get a better understanding of the people around them and find some common ground.

“You’ll pass somebody on the street and think you have nothing in common with them. There’s a lot of human connection that comes up. People talking about who’s influenced them or who’s inspired them,” said Somerside.

They use the thousands of stories they’ve collected to show the other side of St. Louisans that can get lost in the headlines.

“Does crime happen in St, Louis? Of course. Does violence happen in St. Louis? Of course. But we’re also here to show that’s not all of St. Louis. There’s so much more. It’s a testament to the richness of the city,” said Drew.

She also believes learning more about our neighbors can create more empathy.

“It’s super timely right now to say, ‘I can relate to you or even if I don’t know what you are going through at least I can try to understand.’ Put myself into your shoes,” she said.

What Drew has discovered through Humans of St. Louis is much like what poet Maya Angelou once wrote, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

“People are just people,” said Drew.

A Humans of St. Louis book will be coming out in the fall. If you would like to order one or learn more about the nonprofit, click here.

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