People Are Awesome: Mystery Man Gives Strangers Wads of Cash
From Cape Town, South Africa, to Las Vegas, Nevada, he's on a giving spree with a catch. The Lucky ones must spend the money for good.
He roams the globe with a camera and a fat wallet. He's been known to brighten the day of Italian opticians, South African 7-Eleven clerks, and Mumbai cabbies. Wearelucky is the project of a mysterious man who recently came into "more money than he'll ever need," and instead of blowing it on a Virgin Galactic spaceflight has decided to pass it along to strangers. He signs email simply "X" and his generosity comes with a deceptively simple catch: with the money, they have to do something good. They also have to pose for his camera. "I didn't just want to share the money" he says. "I wanted to share the responsibility that came with it. I would take a few photos, ask a few questions and build a gallery of Lucky people and stories." We've collected some of our favorite images above and the mystery man talked with us about "maximizing smiles" and why so many of his lucky people are plucked from bar stools.
GOOD: The site leaves the visitor with a lot of unanswered questions about you. Do you want to remain anonymous? What can you tell us about yourself?
Wearelucky: Yes, I wish to remain anonymous, the project is about the lucky people and the magic that happens when their energy collides with some money. It's not about me. I am tall and shy.
GOOD: Why did you launch Wearelucky and what are its goals?
Wearelucky: I paused one day and reflected on my life, working hard, drinking hard and not seeing enough of the people I love or doing the things I love and I decided to change. I realized I was lucky enough to make choices, I had amassed enough money to choose what to do and so I did.
I wanted to give some money away so I thought hard about how to make the most impact, something that would maximise smiles, and spread the money in as many directions as possible. I couldn't decide what was most important: home or abroad, young or old, smart or challenged, fit or sick. So I decided to pass on that responsibility to others in smaller, more manageable chunks.
GOOD: How much money are you planning to give away and what have the amounts been?
Wearelucky: I give money in chunks of about £1,000. In the U.S. I give $1,000—I make it up as I go along. I think the amount needs to be enough to get peoples' attention but not too large to be a burden.
I'm not sure how much I'm going to give away but after 100 people I'll reflect and see if I'm happy with what's happened and what's next.
GOOD: I notice a fair amount of "invitees" seem to be approached in drinking establishments. Do you just enjoy a good drink or is there some underlying logic here?
Wearelucky: I love a booze. And its where I meet people. I think people are more open to others in bars where they might not be elsewhere, good bars have great energy. And I love a booze.
GOOD: Tell us about your first invitee who was a stranger and whether that interaction was challenging for you.
Wearelucky: I was sitting in an internet café in a tiny village deep in the Cognac region, trying to work out how to ask the manageress if she would take part in Wearelucky. As I sat trying to summon the right words, her entire family arrived for a two week holiday. The moment had passed and I was annoyed with myself.
I got up to leave and overheard a girl in cycling gear saying her goodbyes to people in the bar. They wished her good luck. I couldn’t quite work out what she was doing but it sounded interesting and I was desperate to do my first totally random Wearelucky, so I followed her out of the bar and asked what she was up to. My adrenalin was really pumping and I didn’t listen to a word she said in response. I blurted out something about Wearelucky and sprinted to the bank, somehow managing to smoke 2 cigarettes on the way. I ran back, presented her with the cash and asked if I could take her photograph. She looked a little bemused, but pocketed the cash, thanked me and cycled off in the general direction of London. I felt elated.
GOOD: In the age of kickstarter, where everyone can be an intimately involved micro philanthropist, why do you choose to distribute funds in your one stepped removed way?
Wearelucky: I think by involving someone else it creates more smiles, and makes for more positive feelings. Its beautifully inefficient, creating an unnecessary intermediary harnesses their energy and ideas and maximizes the goodness.
All images courtesy of Wearelucky