Two Friends Are Using The Power of
Creativity, Kindness and Social Media
to Make a Difference
Story by Alley L. Biniarz
Photography by Steff Davidson
A small act of kindness can make someone’s day or even save someone’s life; this is the motto that drove co-founders Miranda Daniher and Danielle Nantais to launch Dear Stranger 143.
Their TikTok and Instagram pages aim to spread joy and kindness through the platforms by sharing photos and videos of their excursions around Windsor-Essex where they hand out words of encouragement, flowers, and even monetary donations to everyday folks. What now has an incredible world-wide following started from humble roots: they were just two friends who wanted to make a difference in their community.
The two had been friends for a decade after connecting through the LGBTQ+ community as teenagers. About four months ago, Danielle came into Miranda’s dad’s tattoo shop wanting to do a photoshoot with a hesitant Miranda, whose mom convinced her to step out of her comfort zone and to do the shoot with Danielle.
Thankfully she did, because after the shoot they started talking about their dreams in life and threw an outlandish idea at each other: “What if we changed the world? How crazy would that be?” They knew they had the tools, the drive, and the passion to do it, so what did they have to lose?
They didn’t know what they wanted to do, only that they wanted to leave an impact. “Spreading kindness is a big element to who we are,” Miranda says that this was the starting point to the idea. “We also wanted to cultivate this element of leaving people feeling seen, heard, and felt.”
The two felt limitless in their ideas and so they decided to start with something simple. They went to the dollar store to grab cue cards and pens and began writing the first Dear Stranger notes that Miranda would pass out to chosen people while Danielle documented it with her camera.
“We wanted to target everyday people because you never know what someone is going through while suffering in silence. You and I might never be able to tell, especially when we’re told to hold it all together, smile and wave and to pretend that we have it all figured out.” Miranda and Danielle both live with their own mental health struggles and knew that they wanted these messages to stretch beyond certain demographics and to touch anyone who might be having a tough day or have been going through a tough time.
These messages have touched the lives of so many Windsorites who have been recipients of a Dear Stranger note, but the initiative has gone further to make an impact on the world—just as Miranda and Danielle had dreamed it could. “We have followers from around the world now and they all say the same thing: that they feel happy when they watch the videos, they feel inspired and that they want to do this in their own cities. That’s what this was all about! We are here to inspire and hopefully to catch a flame.” Miranda says that they’ve even received messages from those who have chosen not to end their lives because of the hope and faith in humanity that they receive from the Dear Stranger Page. “This keeps us going every day and shows us that what we’re doing is really important,” Miranda says.
Sharing these videos on social media has been a crucial element to the project since social media can subject viewers to a lot of negativity and feelings of exhaustion. Miranda and Danielle wanted to be part of the solution on a platform that can be quite powerful, as they’ve now seen. Their positivity has radiated further than the two could have imagined with gaining followers like musical artist Rihanna and catching the attention of Ryan Seacrest and being interviewed on his LA radio show.
When thinking about what it was that stood out about them, Miranda and Danielle say, “We realized then that what makes us different from other groups doing this is that we’re also doing the work of changing stereotypes. With both being alternative looking and from the LGBTQ community and with Miranda being a black woman, we realized that there’s often a stigma associated with that. But we’re working to change that judgment from others.”
Miranda adds that they never take it personally if someone doesn’t respond well to their notes or rejects their donation, because it means that it was meant for someone else to receive. “You never know what someone might be going through. No matter what, try to be as kind as you can, spread love and light, and even if people shut you down, never lose focus of being that person you are. Your love is meant for somewhere and someone else.”
The Dear Stranger 143 page has now grown from its original mission of gifting messages, thanks to generous donors who sponsor the page from all around the world through PayPal. Miranda and Danielle have been able to launch a flower program where they hand a bouquet to an everyday person who might be sitting on a bench or walking their dog in order to brighten their day. They’ve also had the incredible opportunity to donate $500 to a few locals including a vendor at the Downtown Market as well as a busker within the community. This has been the whole point of their endeavour: not just for them to find their purpose but to use their platform to benefit the Windsor-Essex community and beyond.
“Even though we’re doing these big gestures now, the connection between two people is rewarding enough. You don’t need to have a lot of money to change someone’s day,” Miranda shares with anyone looking to impact their community in a similar way. “A little goes a long way to change someone’s mindset or thought process. Smile, compliment them or write your own notes and go give them out! We’ve seen nurses, teachers and others do this in their workplace and completely change the mood. You are your power. You are the change in the world. It doesn’t take money; it just takes you.”