Started by photographer Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York is a New York City-based photoblog that has received critical acclaim from The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Village Voice for its introspective look at NYC residents. Armed with only a camera and an intuitive need to find compelling stories, Stanton traverses the mean streets of New York, capturing photos and tales from random individuals. We have collected 80 heart-warming stories from this Instagram account for you read. Have a beautiful day, friends.


My passion is movies and I can talk about those nonstop. Some people with autism have a keen interest in things like birds and how fast they can soar. But for me it’s movies. I’ve memorized Land Before Time. And a lot of Disney movies. And most of Star Wars. Sometimes when I was younger I’d quote entire movies word-for-word because it was my way of calming down. Like rocking in a chair. Or swinging on a swing. But I kept getting in trouble at school. Even though school was hard at least I had stuff to do. Because when I turned nineteen, I just lived at home with my family and I was pretty much left alone. I would just swing on our outside swing and daydream, and while that was great and stuff-- it was pretty much like my life had ended. When I first joined Special Olympics I was nervous because whenever we played tetherball at school, kids would sigh and say: ‘Renee!’ And that never helped. But Special Olympics was different. It showed me—well actually God showed me that there are people just like me. My teammates don’t even mind my movie quotes because almost everyone has something they love. Duncan loves sports and talks like a broadcaster. And Nicole loves to write in her diary. It’s great to be around people like me. I’m not even sure where I’d be without Special Olympics. I’d probably still be on the swing


When I was little I’d have like five seizures a day. It was horrible and I was always scared. But one week after my eleventh birthday, my mom and dad decided to get me brain surgery. Now I don’t have to worry about seizures and falling all the time. But I can only use one arm now. And because of the surgery there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know if I can do-- like living on my own and stuff. I met Katie at the Special Olympics office. We’re part of a program where you team up with someone who doesn’t have a disability and become like best buds and stuff. At first I didn’t know what to do because, you know, new people. But then it was like OK-- I’m making a new friend. A real friend. We only see each other every couple weeks, but we’ve watched so much Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And we have so many inside jokes. And we even have our own hashtag. And without Katie, I don’t know man. It would be just like it was before, but I wouldn’t have somebody to do this stuff with. I’m having a really hard time right now. My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and he’s going through so much and it’s so, so hard. And sometimes he calls me names but I know he doesn’t mean it. And it’s just so hard. But whenever I feel down and stuff, I can just go in my room and think about all the fun memories I have with Katie


You know that feeling when you walk up to somebody, and they don’t really give you eye contact, because they don’t want to talk to you? Well a few of the kids in school started treating me that way. Other people saw it happening and it spread so fast. Because everyone learned that it was the normal way to behave. And everyone wanted to be normal. It jumped from grade to grade until the whole school was avoiding me. I’d get cyber bullied. My phone would vibrate all night with mean messages. I had such a negative view of myself. I was self-harming. I felt so trapped in the moment. It was so hard for me to realize that eventually it was going to stop. Then one day I was out on the playground and the usual group of kids were picking on me. And an older boy walked over. He knew me from cycling. He had a bit of power because he was from a higher grade. He said: ‘Stop this now. Don’t you understand what you’re doing to her?’ The whole playground saw him do that. And after that things began to turn around. Because people learned that was the normal way to behave


I wanted to quit Special Olympics after the very first day. It took me two hours to get there. It was raining the whole time. But my mom forced me to keep going, and I learned to enjoy it. We’d go run in the park once a week. I was around people who didn’t tease me. Nobody called me names. I wasn’t made to feel stupid. After a few months our coach convinced my mom to let me go to an overnight event. It was at Westchester State University Teachers College. I did three events: the long jump, the softball throw, and the 50-yard dash. I won all three. And I’ve been competing ever since. It’s changed my life so much I can’t explain. I’m more confident. I speak at schools and colleges. I own a house. I pay property taxes. If there’s something not going right in my town, I’ll go down to city council and complain. And I’m still competing. I’m sixty-five and this year I tried out for the tennis team. I picked weeds off a public court and spent hundreds of hours hitting the ball against a wall. But I didn’t make the team. And I’ll tell you what-- I went back to my dorm and cried. And it takes a lot to make me cry. But I wanted compete so badly, because this is where I feel important. I think the feeling I get when I win a medal is the same feeling a President gets when they’re getting elected. It’s the feeling of achieving something that you dreamed about. And people with intellectual disabilities don’t get to feel that enough


My parents were shot when I was ten years old. My mother was a lawyer and my dad was an engineer. They’d been working in South Africa, and they resisted a robbery attempt. At least that’s what my grandfather told me. I thought everyone was fooling me until their bodies came home to Zimbabwe. Thankfully my aunt and uncle raised me and I kept going. But I was never able to graduate from school. I have dyslexia. I’m not good at reading or writing. The teachers couldn’t understand my problem, and I was expected to keep up with the rest of the class. Other students would laugh at me. And I just couldn’t do it. Now I feel lost. I keep to myself. I have nothing to do and I’m just sitting on my talent. I have a mechanical mind. I can understand any machine. But no engineering program will consider you unless you’re good with books. And there are no facilities for dyslexia in our country. I see dyslexic people from other countries who have achieved their dreams. And it’s painful to see. Because there is no path for me. I’m thankful for Special Olympics. They keep me from being idle, but I can’t spend all day on a golf course. I need a job. A few years ago I discovered my father’s diary. There was a section where he wrote a page about each of his children. He wrote that I was the smart one. I was the one who could fix anything. I was the future engineer


Her history came out slowly once she learned to talk. She’d been abused in every possible way. She’d never had a Christmas. She’d never been to school. She’d never even slept in a dry bed. All she’d ever known was deprivation. But once we got her, we left that all in the past. We said: ‘This is what we have now. Let’s start here.’ Her life has been so full since we got her. It hasn’t been easy. She was diagnosed with Autism. She needs lots of attention. Puberty was tough. My husband passed away so I had to do it alone. School was a herculean effort. Colors, numbers, and shapes were nearly impossible. And we still can’t tell time or do math. But she is a master of everything physical. And we did it all. She took ten years of dancing lessons. She played on a travel soccer team. She’s an amazing artist. We’re here this week to compete in powerlifting. Now the one last thing I want for her is to get a job. To earn a living. To come home tired from a good day’s work and say: ‘Mom, I can take you for dinner tonight.’ It’s not going to be easy, but that’s how I’d love the story to end. If I had known twenty years ago how difficult it was going to be-- would I have made the decision? There’s no way of knowing. And there’s no way of summing up the experience. Because it’s not an experience. It’s my child


In those days there was a blue book in the library with all the faces of children who needed homes. She was eight years old. Her foster parents should have been thrown in jail. No immunization records. She’d never been to school. No language skills. She couldn’t even describe the abuse she’d been through. But she was a little ball of fire. Very hyperactive and very cute. All we saw was this little kid who had nobody. And we’re looking at her thinking: ‘What’s going to happen if we walk away?’ We had no clue how difficult it was going to be. You never do. But there was no time to be scared. If you’re getting a child with no home and nobody-- you’ve got to get over ‘scared.’ You have to pray. You need to have the heart for it. Because there’s no way you’re going to give them back. Those first few days I spent so much time with her in a rocking chair: back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I kept telling her: ‘This is what I do with my babies. I rock you in a chair


We come from Palestine, and both of these athletes live in refugee camps. The camp has a special needs program provided by the Red Crescent, but that ends at the age of sixteen. And there’s nowhere to go after that. No programs. No jobs. So right now Special Olympics is the only thing keeping them off the streets. When we are competing, there’s a sense of focus and determination. There’s a feeling of representing Palestine. There’s a feeling of being someone who has value and contributes to society. But when we go back home—that’s all gone. They’re seen as not having skills. There’s no respect. They're basically ignored. It’s like going between two extremes, and it can be hard for them to go home. Last night Saeed heard us making arrangements for the flight home-- and he tried to hide


This is the first time in my whole life that I got a gold medal in the World Games. I was very calm and controlled my emotions. When I left home, my mom said to focus hard on my trainings and make Egypt proud of you. Sometimes when I’m on my horse I pretend like my mom is right beside me and not all the way back in Cairo. I want to thank her so much. She does everything for me. My dad is in heaven and I want him to know that I miss him and that I love him so much. All the time I hear him saying ‘do a good job’ and ‘take care of yourself.’ I want to thank God for helping me win a gold medal. I want to thank my brother Islam for calling me yesterday and saying: ‘I hope you win the gold medal.’ That helped so much. I also want to thank my Coach Dahlia because she is a person that I love. She is almost like my little sister. Right now I feel like life is so beautiful. I feel a smile all over my face. I love everyone. And I am feeling very much like everyone loves me because I’m beautiful


Papa left El Salvador eight years ago to come work in Dubai. It’s very difficult without him but I understand the reasons why he is gone. He said he was very sorry but he needed to find a way for us to live. He is an excellent worker. I was so very sad in the beginning. I missed his hugs so much and also the times he would sing to me. I was crying almost every day. But he calls me so much, and sometimes he sings to me on the phone, and every year he gets to come home for one whole month. I was so excited when I found out that the Special Olympics are in the same country where my Dad works. I feel so lucky. He is with me all the time this week. He gets to watch me do my gymnastics. He gets to watch me do my jumps and hang on the bars. He was so happy and clapping so much. I am hugging him all the time. And telling him how much I love him. And he is always telling me that he is so proud of me


It was a problem with my memory. I couldn’t remember things. Everyone else my age was moving forward, and I kept staying behind. My heart was very sore. I loved school. I wanted to be a doctor and a lawyer just like everyone else. I kept asking God: ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I tried my best. I even went to night school. But eventually my teachers said they didn’t want to waste my time. They sent me to a school to learn handwork. That’s where I learned about Special Olympics. I was an angry young man back then. I could not accept my situation. But one day I met Arnold Schwarzenegger when he came to South Africa for an event. I told him my entire story, and he said: ‘Look here, I am the Terminator, but today I am your friend. Listen to me. You are not strong in academics, but that is just one thing. It’s nothing to worry about. You are a very strong man. You can’t hate yourself for the rest of your life. It is time for you to move on.’ From that moment I began to accept myself. I now have everything in life except for academics. I work hard. I have a house. I have a family. I have a career as a soccer coach. My son attends the same school where I work—and he’s very smart. I make sure he does all his assignments. When he struggles, I bring him to his teachers so they can lift him up. I tell him: ‘Tumi, I never finished school. But God is amazing. He has made you strong where I am weak


I tried to make friends as a child but it never worked out. Every day I’d get bullied. My teachers were nice, but the only kids who would spend time with me were my cousins-- and they were in a higher class. People would call me ‘idiot’ and ‘stupid.’ They’d push me over. I tried to just stare at the floor and not look at people. I felt like jumping out the window. I didn’t want to eat. I became so weak that my mom would feed me with her own hands. I’d talk to the walls of my bedroom. I’d talk to my paintings. I had an imaginary friend named Amanda. She was a fairy. After school I’d close the curtains and sit on the floor and hug my bear and wait for Amanda to come. She was very pretty. She had a beautiful crown. She’d make me laugh, and encourage me, and tell me not to be sad. She’d say ‘good things will happen to you.’ Then one day when I was fourteen, I went to a swim meet with my mother. I was scared of the pool so I just stood along the edge. A woman walked up to me and asked if I was special. Her name was Ronak. She had a beautiful smile. She gave me a hug. I never thought anyone would ever hug me like she did. It felt really good. She looked at me in the eyes, grabbed my hands, and said: ‘Please, please, please join Special Olympics. It will change your life.’ She gave me her phone number. After that day, Amanda never came back


Even within the Down Syndrome community, it can be hard to not compare. You’ve found a group of people going through the same thing as you. And suddenly there are gradations. I follow all these people on Instagram that are my age and have Down Syndrome babies. And it’s easy to feel jealous. There are so many differing abilities. Some kids are already walking by now. Then there are the people with Down Syndrome who are revered. Some have testified before Congress. Some are models, and gymnasts, and mothers. And that represents hope for a lot of people. But that’s also not the reality for a lot of people. And that hope can be devastating. What if your kid can’t do those things? What if your kid can’t do Special Olympics? But I’m optimistic by nature. And the only thing I truly need is that she’ll have people who love her. And I mean people who aren’t blood. I want her to be included and have friends and have a community. I want people to say ‘hi,’ and sit with her, and include her. If no boy asks her to prom, I’m going to be devastated. Because I imagine my own life without friends or social connections and it’s so sad. I can’t watch her go through that. And the hardest thing is that these are things I can’t control. All of these experiences are so dependent on other people. I’ll never be able to control how other people see her


Both of us are really shy. We were working at the same office when we met. I’d do anything to walk by her desk. And she’d do the same. I’d ask her for advice on certain projects. We were flirting the entire time but neither of us wanted to admit it. Then one night we decided to take a walk together after work. We ended up sitting on a bench just like this, and we had a very intimate conversation about our lives. We were so honest with each other. I talked about my weaknesses. And mistakes that I’d made. And plans for the future. We were sitting in front of town hall, and both of us agreed that it would be a great place to get married one day—whenever we met someone. The whole time I had my arm along the back of the bench, not quite touching her. It was so cold outside, but neither of us mentioned it, because we didn’t want the night to end. When the conversation finally finished, I walked her to her car. It was a ten minute walk. I tried to act relaxed but inside I was really nervous. The whole time I was thinking about kissing her. Should I do it? Should I not? Then finally I decided on a hug. But it was a deep hug. Extra deep hug. That night I went back home, and said to my roommate: ‘That’s her.’” (Paris, France)


There was an eighty percent chance of miscarriage. I walked around every day not knowing if my daughter was still alive. Every two weeks I went to the doctor to check for a heartbeat. I always asked them to face the ultrasound screen away from me. I couldn’t bear to look. At week twenty-two my placenta began to fail. I was hospitalized at week thirty. The blood flow through the umbilical cord had been reversed. The delivery took three days. Her heartbeat was dropping. The chance of stillbirth was so high. During the emergency C-section, there were thirty people in the room. My husband said that all of them had an ‘oh fuck’ look on their face. The last thing I remember is the gas mask being put over my mouth. Then I woke up asking for milkshakes. They wheeled my entire bed into the NICU to meet my daughter. She’d had oxygen deprivation. Her heart was halfway beating. I was still paralyzed so I couldn’t even sit up to look at her. The nurse took my phone, held it over my daughter, and turned it on ‘selfie mode.’ This is what she looked like when I saw her for the first time


He fell down on his birthday. We’d just celebrated with a party. He was standing on a ladder, trying to fix a shelf, and he fell. It was all very sudden. He was in a coma for a week and then he was gone. After his death, I began to write in a journal. On the first pages I wrote about his final days. I was so sad. I just needed to process what happened. But then I kept going back, back, writing everything I could remember: the walks we had together, the places we visited, museums, castles, holidays with the children. I carried a pen with me at all times. Every time I had a memory, I’d write it down. We’d known each other since we were fourteen years old. We’d take walks in this park back then—with our parents permission, of course. It’s been almost nine months since his death. I’m feeling a little better. I’m still writing, but it’s not so much about memories anymore. It’s more spiritual now. I think he's still evolving somewhere. One night I saw him in a dream. It was the young Claude. Twenty-five or thirty years old. It was so real. I don’t even think it was a dream. I could feel him there. He was standing in a doorway, dressed completely in red. And Claude never wore red. But when I reached out to hug him, the door closed, and he disappeared. I believe he's still out there somewhere. And that I’ll see him again on the other side of that door. (Paris, France)


We’re from the small island country of Vanuatu. I don’t know anything about sports, but nobody else wanted to coach the team. So I volunteered. Special Olympics gave me a list of sports and I chose the long jump. But two of my athletes couldn’t jump. So we moved to the javelin throw. But that was too hard to throw, so now we’re competing in the shot put competition. When I first met Monick, she’d never really left her house before. She couldn’t look me in the eye. And she was afraid of the shot put. She’d drop it on the ground every time I handed it to her. She’d hide her hands behind her back. But I invited her whole family out to train with us. Everyone participated. And that gave her confidence. On days we weren’t training, her mother gave her coconuts and rocks to throw. When it was time to compete, nobody knew if she’d be able to get on the plane. She was so scared. She was crying and clinging to me the entire flight. Once we arrived, we had to drive straight to the stadium for qualifications. Everything was so new for her. She’d never left her island before. The stadium was so big and she had to go out on the field all by herself. On her first throw she forgot everything she learned. She dropped the shot put immediately and the referee raised a red flag for disqualification. But then she looked back at us. She calmed down. She remembered being back on the island with all her family. And she threw it so far on the second throw. When the white flag was raised, we all went crazy. And she won the silver medal


I’m here to support my older brother. You’d never know he has special needs by looking at him. But what you can learn in one hour, it might take him three or four years. Even though I’m younger, he’s always looked up to me. He writes on my Facebook wall all the time. He’s so proud of my accomplishments. On this trip he’s been sleeping in the bed next to me, but he still texts me that he loves me so much. My mom says he was so happy when I was born. He saw me as an example. Anything that I did—he wanted to do. He learned to feed himself after seeing me eat. He stopped using diapers once I did. It’s getting harder for him to copy me now that we’re adults, but the desire is still there. He wants to drive like me. He wants a girlfriend like me. He wanted a job at the grocery store so badly that he cried during the interview. He wants a family. And a house. And a car. And I want him to get there too. But I’m not sure he realizes how difficult those things will be. There’s another level he has to get past. Cooking is still difficult. And washing clothes. And counting money. We’re just not there yet. So I have to be ready for him to live with me for the rest of my life. And I have to hope that my future family will be OK with that. My brother wants to be independent so badly. And all of us want him to get there. But if he doesn’t, I’m here


I first met him when he was thirteen years old. He lives in one of the most remote regions of Brunei. You can only get there by river. There’s no running water, no electricity, no utilities. Certainly no special education facilities. He came alone to our city looking for assistance. When I first met him, his trousers were completely torn. He was so small for his age. I’m a special education teacher, so I said to myself: ‘I’m going to help this boy.’ He lived with me for four years. It was the only way he could get training. I coached him on the Special Olympics soccer team. I tried to give him structure. I told him: take a bath every day, go to sleep early, always go to school. The advice had to be continuous because he forgets very easily. But I did everything for him. He became like my son. But he never called me ‘father.’ Always ‘teacher.’ And I never forced him to stay. He’d leave home for a few nights at a time, but he’d always come back. I was really hoping he’d live with me until he got a job. It’s dangerous for him to be on his own because he needs guidance. His family has many bad habits. But last October he turned eighteen, and he chose to go home. He reaches out to me sometimes when his family runs out of food. Or when he needs money. He knows that I can never say ‘no.’ At first it was very difficult. I worried nonstop. I’d always ask his friends: ‘Where is Azril now?’ But I have to accept I’ve done all I can. He has become an adult. When we return from the games, I think it’s time for me to let go


On a unified team, each athlete is allowed a partner to support them on the court. We make sure every athlete gets a chance to participate and score. We control the tempo. Since basketball games can be chaotic, it can be helpful for athletes to have a teammate who can guide them and keep them calm. Unified sports are wonderful because they allow us to play together as brothers. Giles always used to watch us playing at the local club growing up. He wanted to join us but the level was too high for him. Giles can have problems reaching certain goals. So many times we have to tell him that his goals are not possible. It’s frustrating for all of us. But this time we got to say: ‘Yes Giles, it is possible.’ Every Friday we get in our car together, drive to the river, listen to our favorite songs, and then head to our game. It’s our favorite day of the week


I have twenty superheroes that I keep in a folder on my phone and I take it out to look at them, and I pretend that I am the leader of an entire superhero team. The whole team is counting on me to get as strong as possible because I am the muscle of the team. Being the biggest is like a way to take charge. It doesn’t even matter if I have super powers because I can use my own true strength, and the barbell is like a type of weapon. It’s important as a leader to always listen to your team. Our whole team decided together that friendship is more important than winning. Nobody will be mad at me if I lose. They don’t care if I bring home a medal. My family and my friends and Coach John and everyone in the Philippines will be proud of me even just for lifting weights


We are the first female athletes from Saudi Arabia. It makes us feel wow. It’s one of the nicest moments in our life. I have to be happy and positive because I am the basketball team captain. Whenever we make a shot, I clap. I also clap if we miss it. And I clap if the other team makes it. If somebody is sad I tell them don’t be upset my sweet heart. And then I rub their shoulder. This is my teammate Dahwia-- I am her friend and she is my friend. I love her so much. She loves food and we dance together. We blow each other kisses during the game. Yesterday we won. But it doesn’t matter if we lose because at the end we always dance


My dad plays with Barbies and does anything I want. (Paris, France)


I came here to buy some Christmas goods and bring them back to Finland to sell in the markets. But I was stupid. I left my hotel with the cash in my pocket, had a few drinks, met a woman, and woke up in an alley. Don’t remember much. Even my ID was gone. I’ve been here ever since. There’s nothing left for me back home. The divorce was finalized in May. The money’s gone. I’ve got nothing waiting for me but debts. This isn’t my first time in Paris. I’ve been here one hundred times before-- but always on the other side of the wall. The good side: nice hotels, nice restaurants, plenty of money in the pocket. Now I’m seeing all the shit. All the crap. The alleyways are filled with young men who should be defending their own homes and families and countries—but now they’re here and they don’t give a shit about anybody. Three times my clothes have been stolen right next to me. Sometimes when I’m awake. They don’t say ‘please.’ I’m stressed as hell. I’m not sleeping. Last month I had a heart attack right in front of the hospital. Everyone turned away when I asked for help. They could tell that I’m a street person. I try to keep clean, but I had my clothes in a plastic bag. So they knew. I was on the ground for several minutes before a Nigerian man finally stopped to help. (Paris, France)


My name is Ariel and I’m from Costa Rica and my dream is to be a journalist. I have an Instagram page where I am going to put all my interviews. This week I would like to cover the feelings of the athletes and parents and coaches. I ask questions like: ‘Are you having fun?’ And ‘What is your favorite sport?’ And ‘Are you enjoying Abu Dhabi?’ My mom is helping me think of the questions to ask. I don’t know what I would do without her. She tells me to be patient and says that if someone is busy, we need to wait until they are finished before asking questions. She reminds me to talk slowly. And to say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir.’ And to love people. And not to say bad words. I want to thank her so much for all her help. I would also like to thank my job at the IBM infrastructure department for letting me come here. I would also like to thank my grandmother who has come to help us. It hurts for her to walk but I feel confident when she is here. Her job is to have fun. I would like to thank her so much. Thank you so much for this interview


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