Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reclaiming the Streets

It was one of those rainy autumn days in the Netherlands, one of those rainy days where there's no hiding from a drop as it is absolutely pouring down, all over your face, down your neck, if unlucky your shoes... And I saw this woman as only Dutch women can look in the rain; soaked and bent over her bike like a hunchback.

For a second, our eyes met. We recognized the miserable state we brought ourselves in. Thinking this horrible weather was a personal insult. I cracked up first. Then she broke into a big smile. The hunchback disappeared and got replaced by a self confident, happy -oh, the hell with it - type of blonde, who was going to take on that day from that moment on like there was no tomorrow.

That is what this blog is about.

About connection. With perfect strangers. About becoming that perfect stranger.


Because I had to go all the way back into the 90ies for this lovely memory.

Because I don't like the way we treat each other these days. Like we are not strangers, but instead, like Patrick Bateman, we are simply not there. Or rather The Others are simply not there. We ignore each other on the sidewalk. In our favourite cafe we slouch our hunchback over our cup of coffee and our iPhone or iPad. We are all alone on a bus so full of people that it takes tremendous effort to pretend not to notice each  other. We are not standing in line at the grocery store with other people and God forbid we'd say 'hi' to anyone on the elevator.

I'm starting this blog because I thought it is easy to be nice. Or is it? I want to prove it is. I am going to be nice in some shape, way or form to someone I don't or barely know on a daily basis for a year. And keep you posted. I'm also going to keep you posted on all the nice things strangers do for me or people around me. Because in all honesty, despite my little rant in the previous paragraph, lots of anonymous folks are changing the world by being friendly, helping or understanding. You're probably one of them, or you wouldn't be reading this. Let's reclaim the streets.


  1. Very inspirational! Not in a "Cool idea but I'll forget about it tomorrow" kind of way. I want to do the same. Not in a "I want to do the same but won't" kind of way. I really will try to remember to be nice to strangers and catch them by surprise. Not in a "I'll try to remember to be nice but I doubt it will last a week" kind of way. I really wanted to try this but you beat me to it. Not in a "you beat me to it so there's no point in doing it now" kind of way.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Karim, I appreciate it! This is actually one of the side effects of the project that I was hoping for (don't get me wrong I know you were planning on doing this before reading this, but it still is one of the things I'm hoping for): a butterfly effect of acts of kindness. You concentrate on Canada, I'll focus on the Netherlands. Have a nice day and make it a nice day!

  3. Hi Machteld,
    What a lovely blog! I wanted to thank you for taking the time to do me, as a stranger, a kindness (i.e. participating in my research!) and to say that I'll be following your 'goodness' experiment ;-) Thanks for the good reading and happy vibes!