Hunter Prosper: Listener, Nurturer & Friend

Who is the man behind the camera who showed the world we are more alike than different?

In life, whether falling in love or beginning an unexpected friendship, grieving over the death of a loved one or feeling the pain of a broken heart — moments that make life both exciting and scary may be just around the corner for us, and often happen when we least expect them.

Throughout my life, just like most people, I have navigated moments like these. And while they may leave our souls intact, they still alter us. We might become less naïve or susceptible, or battle-hardened, or utterly demoralized.

Our resilience is tested daily as we struggle to be optimistic or to resist clinging to the past. As moments of happiness and sadness come and go, how do we arm ourselves for this daily battle?

The best way is to understand that we are not alone and that others have been through the same battles. We have Hunter Prosper to thank for showing the world that the power of solidarity and hope can conquer all.

Prosper is the man behind the camera who has shown that we are more alike than different. His video series Notes from a Stranger and Notes to a Stranger and his interview series, Stories from a Stranger, capture the emotionally raw unheard stories of common people.

As people walk the streets of their communities they are either approached by Prosper or encounter a table with a glass bowl filled with anonymously written notes and a hanging sign that reads, “What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve been told?,” “What’s something you wish you had said?” or “What things make you happy in your relationship?”

Those who have come across his videos can’t help but reflect on the nature of love, death, spirituality and relationships in their own lives.

We begin to realize that at their core, our characters and our relationships can both be defined by a single moment concerning any of these questions. Prosperʼs videos have struck such an emotional chord with his millions of adoring followers and have become so popular that he was recently granted a one-on-one interview with U.S. President Joe Biden.

Prosper’s content will make you cry tears of joy and sadness, smile and practice the art of humility.

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But who is Hunter Prosper? What has the journey been like for him — the man behind the camera?

He was named in tribute to Hunter S. Thompson by his loving mother, who was a big fan of the American journalist and author, and he was raised by her alone after his father left them when he was very young.

Although Prosper was raised in a home with few material resources or privileges, he experienced an abundance of richness as he grew up: the conversations he shared with his mother.

“Conversation is what bonded my mom and me together. We didn’t have things to distract us like video games, bikes or whatever. We couldn’t do a lot of things other than just be with each other,” says Prosper. “In a deep way, every time I listen to someone I know or a stranger, I sort of associate it with what gave me my first happiness — which was talking to my mom.”

Even though the power of listening and of being present was ingrained in his being, what served as the main impetus for the inspiring social media content the world knows today was his passion for health care. He eventually became a resource nurse, working 13-hour shifts, recalling that his favourite thing to do as a nurse was just to talk to patients.

After he transitioned to the intensive care unit, however, the moments he spent talking to his patients went from being his most cherished to his darkest.

“The problem with the ICU is you get to know someone, and then you’re doing CPR on them in the next hour or so. You’re getting to know all these people and then you’re losing them,” he says. “Because of that, I became closed off.”

But unexpected friendships are just around the corner, and Prosper became close to a patient after he promised himself that he wouldn’t. Unfortunately, she died.

“Before she passed, and she knew she was going to pass, I asked her a question — the same question I ask strangers on the street. She looked at me and began to cry tears of joy on her deathbed,” says Prosper.

It was at that moment Prosper realized that although the experiences we go through are unique to each of us, the emotions attached to pain, love, sadness or heartbreak are all things that make us human.

“We all feel, and that connectedness makes me feel a lot more comfortable in knowing that the person sitting at the bus stop has a beautiful, amazing story, and they’re just as much of a main character as I am in this world,” says Prosper. It was this realization that gave birth to Stories from a Stranger.

When Prosper approaches these strangers unexpectedly in the moment, the wall that is ordinarily up when strangers speak slowly falls, and as it falls you can see it in their eyes as they begin to tell a chapter in their book of life, making it a beautifully therapeutic moment for the stranger and the viewers — but most of all for Prosper himself, as he looks back on his early years as a nurse feeling burned out, sad and lost from humanity.

“I wasn’t expecting a response, but the response is the cherry on top. If it wasn’t getting millions of views, I would still be doing it because I need it. It helps me know that I’m not weird for feeling this emotion,” says Prosper.

As I sat across from Prosper, I couldn’t stop myself from asking him, “Do you have any message or any words you would like to say to conclude this interview?” His response: “Yeah, because she is the most important person in my life … I love you, Mom.”

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Marc Castaldo

Marc Castaldo