I Asked 6 Homeless People “What is the Happiest Part of Your Day?” and the Answers Will Bring Tears to Your Eyes

Jordan Gross

It’s just about being human

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“What is the happiest part of your day?”

I believe that studying this question, more than any other, will provide the insight necessary to achieve a certain degree of happiness every single day.

I'm an incredibly curious person. I'm the guy listening to an argument between two people, and I'm silently in the background Googling and researching the answer. I don’t do this because I want to be correct, but rather I do this because I want to be informed.

I want to take the things that I learn and apply them to daily interactions. I'm constantly asking questions in search for answers that will change my own behavior and will also change the behavior of others.

Something very important to me is taking somebody out of the mundane. By this I mean,

What can I do in order to make this person’s day different than normal?

What can I do in order to make this person’s day better than normal?

What can I do in order to make this person’s day more memorable than normal?

I like to study people’s behavior, their body language, the words they say, and the way in which they say them. I am very aware of people who work “normal jobs”, the ones that seem robotic. My goal is to make these jobs feel a little bit less normal.

I am the guy cracking jokes with the cashier, I am asking the server questions at a restaurant even though I may already know the answers, and I am constantly on the prowl for how to make people happier.

One day, I thought, the best way to understand how to make people happier was simply to ask them.

“What is the happiest part of your day?”

The Sources

When I do anything, I always like to think differently, and I like to act differently. I did not want to just ask anybody when they are happiest, because different people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, parts of the world, ages, etc. would have totally different answers. As with any research study, I could not make the interviewees completely uniform, but I wanted to make them unique in some way.

In studying happiness, I questioned,

Who are, or should be the  unhappiest  people?

This is who I was going to interview. Understanding what makes the unhappy happy puts happiness in its simplest form. It should provide hints that allow me to understand what I need to be happy each and every day, and what others can and should be doing as well.

So, in thinking about these research participants, I asked myself:

Where are the sad faces around where I live?

Who is asking for help?

Who smiles the least?

I thought about these questions, and I knew that the answer was sad, but obvious.

Homeless people.

This is not to say that there are not happy homeless people. But as a whole, this was the group I believed had the least amount to be happy about, and they were also the most easily accessible to ask living in New York City.

I have also been extremely emotional about homeless people for as long as I can remember.

My dad used to joke that I was going to make him go broke as a kid because any time we passed somebody begging for money, I always forced him to give them some.

I’m still like this today.

The Outcome

So, off I went to the streets of New York City with one simple question for six homeless people with whom I crossed paths.

“What is the happiest part of your day?”

I came across six individuals with six unique stories, unique backgrounds, and unique reasons for why they were homeless. I started each conversation with the main question, dug deeper in order to understand why they said this, and finally learned more about who they were and what their stories were.

For the sake of the people involved, I will keep their identities and stories private.

As I spoke to each person, as I listened to each person, it was clear that a trend was emerging.

At the beginning of the conversation, I was greeted with responses like,

“When people give me:

Money.

Clothes.

Shelter.

Food.

Alcohol.”

Material objects necessary for survival. Makes sense, but I continued to delve deeper.

“I guess I like when people notice me.”

One woman said.

“It’s nice when people don’t just act like I’m a rock on the street and walk by me without even turning their head.”

Said another.

Then one man said it best,

“When somebody else makes me feel human. Yea, that is the best part actually.”

I also asked what made some of these people feel badly about themselves and their days.

“When a group of people walk by, look back and laugh or something, that really hurts.”
“When somebody looks at me in disgust.”
“When somebody yells out to get a job or calls me a liar and doesn’t even stop to hear my side of the story.”

I saw a pattern and made a statement to each of these incredible people.

“So, you are happiest when people make you feel seen and heard in a positive way? You are happiest when you are not forgotten.”

Nods of agreement.

And finally, I heard this from each person:

This will be the happiest moment of my day today. Thank you for talking to me.

I remember the lump form in the back of my throat. I remember the tears forming in my eyes. I’m choking up now as I write this.

The Takeaway

These conversations were more powerful for me than I ever would have expected. I walked out my door to conduct a simple experiment on happiness, and I walked back in with a newfound appreciation, respect, and remembrance, for a group of often forgotten people.

I must take part in experiences each and every day that are outside the norm. I must do it for myself, and even better, I must create unique experiences for others.

All these people desire is somebody to change the direction of their everyday lives. Each day, thousands of people walk by them on the streets chatting on their cell phones, joking with their friends, power-walking with their heads down begging for anything but interaction.

Please reverse this reality.

I want to relay 3 final takeaways I learned about happiness, life, and all people, not just the homeless, as part of this social enlightening.

1. Do not settle for surface level answers

Dig deeper and discover more. Take the time and effort to learn.

2. Make life different

For me and for others. It is too easy to go through the motions and forget that others are doing the same. Make each day creative, unique, and memorable.

3. Do what feels human

I am not outlining any groundbreaking information here. I am telling a real-life story about something that truly changed my life and the lives of others.

I will never forget to look a homeless person in the eye, ignore them if they ask a question, or make them feel unseen ever again. It may be the societal norm to just walk right by, but as I mentioned, norms are overrated.

The last thing I will say is that the fundamentals of happiness are simplicity and positive human interaction.

With these two ideals in mind, it is obvious how I can make somebody else happy, and in doing so, make myself happier as well.

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Reimagining Personal Development

New York, NY
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