Kim Smiley is sharing a photo and a story a day for one year.
The Toronto-based artist, social entrepreneur, and scholar of religions started the project on June 8, 2015. It’s an online social experiment she calls
The Empathy Effect.
“Each post profiles a subject or object that is transforming the world through acts of empathy large or small, random or planned, local or global,” she said in an interview with Upworthy. “I feel the Internet has become a place of merciless judgment, and I wanted to create a counterforce to the callousness and negativity.”
Here are a few stories Smiley has shared that are especially meaningful to her.
Day 5: Smiley tells the story of Matthew Morton, a husband, dad, and doctor suffering from brain cancer.
Morton’s prognosis was dim he was told he had 12, maybe 18 months to live. But seven years later, he was still alive and still working as a physician. And despite his ongoing fight with cancer, he and his wife even made time to have two more kids.
On day 81, Morton was once again the subject of Smiley’s project when she learned that he had finally succumbed to cancer. She reposted the photo of Morton and his wife with a
Day 26: Her subject is veterinarian Faith Banks, who runs a mobile hospice for pets.
This photo is of Banks and her dog Smudge, whose struggle with early dementia inspired her to start the hospice. “After a good life,” Banks told Smiley, “a pet deserves a good death.”
This story stood out to Smiley because hospice brings to mind almost exclusively
human end-of-life scenarios. But Banks reminded her that “empathy is empathy, period,” even if it’s elicited by an animal.
Day 66: Smiley profiles Jean-Paul Bdard, an athlete and survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
Smiley’s hypothesis behind sharing these stories is that empathy is infectious.
She may not be adhering precisely to the scientific method, but that’s OK because the proof is in the pudding, as they say. And the pudding here is her audience response.
In just 137 days, Smiley’s page has attracted over 65,000 followers, and the social interactions have been nothing but positive. Those are pretty stellar results for a digital campaign being waged by just one person.