Sometimes all it takes is a simple handshake to launch a movement.
Georgetown University student Febin Bellamy knows this well.
While walking to class one day, Bellamy decided to stop and say hey to a maintenance worker he'd seen around the halls. He reached out his hand to introduce himself and was pleasantly surprised at what followed.
"A lot of times, we just walk past these workers like they're invisible." This college student is challenging his classmates to see the unsung heroes around all of us.Posted by Upworthy on Saturday, December 10, 2016
The two hit it off immediately.
"We had a lot of similarities," said Oneil Bachelor. "This guy was like my lost brother, because I was telling him everything."
Bellamy, the student, and Bachelor, the maintenance worker, bonded over being immigrants, talking about their families, their talents, and their dreams.
Bellamy learned that Bachelor, who'd been cleaning at Georgetown for many years, dreamed of opening his own catering restaurant. He'd been cooking since he was 12 and he had true talent.
Bellamy said he'd help him in his cooking endeavors, creating a website and garnering outside support. Soon, students were experiencing Bachelor's cooking for themselves, and coming back for more.
For Bellamy, it was a reminder that everyone has a story — including the often-unnoticed workers who keep the university running behind the scenes every day. If only people got to know them to see who they really were. He wondered if social media could help with that.
Bellamy launched a Facebook project called Unsung Heroes to show appreciation and awareness to the workers who often go unrecognized.
He made it for the custodians, cafeteria workers, security guards, facility managers, busboys, and all the people helping to run our schools, businesses, and communities. It's for the people who work day and night making others' lives safer and easier yet often go overlooked and under-appreciated.
"A lot of time, we just walk past these workers as if they are invisible," said Bellamy.
Last year, the Unsung Heroes project interviewed over 100 workers around Georgetown to share their stories and give them the recognition they deserve.
So far, the project has posted more than 24 of them to their Facebook page (check it out!) and the idea is spreading outside of the campus walls. At least 40 universities around the country have inquired about starting their own chapters.
Taking the time to reach out and listen to one another creates a more inviting and empathetic world – for all of us.
"That handshake woke me up, and I feel like we could all be like that to somebody," said Bachelor, who is seeing such a great response to his catering efforts that he hopes to launch his own food truck.
In a time where social media is thought to divide us and to filter out the unfamiliar, projects like Unsung Heroes show the beauty of connection. It strengthens our communities, makes life more interesting, and — who knows? It could even help launch the next great business.