The Strangers Project: Collecting the stories of strangers

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Have you ever found yourself wondering about a complete stranger’s life?  Most people probably do, and they probably keep those questions to themselves, never knowing the answers.  But what if you asked that stranger to share his or her story?

The Strangers Project: Collecting the stories of strangers

The Strangers Project: Collecting the stories of strangers

Have you ever found yourself wondering a complete stranger’s life? Most people probably keep those questions to themselves, never knowing the answers. But what if you asked that stranger to share his or her story?
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Brandon Doman did in 2009 when he was living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Sitting at a coffee shop, Doman found himself people-watching, curious about the lives that passed him by.

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So he set up a sign that asked people to stop and share their stories. An hour later he had a dozen journal entries from complete strangers – and a new project, which he calls “The Strangers Project.”

Doman has now collected over 10,000 anonymous stories which he shares online, in books, and in exhibits across the country.  The stories, just like the handwriting of their authors, are all unique. Some are happy and light-hearted, while others are highly personal confessions and rather dark.

“A lot of people I think end up using this project as a form of catharsis.  These aren’t necessarily secrets, but there are sometimes things that people didn’t have somewhere else to share,” said Doman.  “Some of them talk about what people are going through right now, or some of them go through a sort of journey of what they’ve experienced in the past.”

Writing and reading these stories can be a way to feel less alone and more connected — maybe we’re not all strangers to each other after all.

On this week’s Close-Up, we followed Doman as he collected stories in New York City, and learned how the human connections made through his collection of anonymous journal entries can be helpful for mental health.

Follow “The Strangers Project” on Twitter: @StrangersProj

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