In June of 2015, amid the grit and grime of the New York City subway system, one man wanted to bring some fun and compassion to harried commuters.
This man, Thomas Knox, 28, decided to set up a small table and chairs and invite random strangers to sit down for a chat or a game while they waited for their train.
Knox called it "Date While You Wait," but finding a date was not his objective. "I am not looking for love through this particular venue; I just wanted a simple way for people to have a positive social interaction outside of traditional media.
People need to communicate more face to face." Knox says.
The setup also included a flower in a soda bottle. "It brings beauty and nature into what is a normally dark, dreary space," says Knox.
The location for the project always remained a secret until Knox sent out which subway station he'll be set up at using Instagram and Facebook. Guests are then invited to share their experience using the hashtag #datewhileyouwait.
"I wanted to have a conversation. I just wanted people to talk to me; I wanted them to tell me a little bit about themselves, tell me how their day went; I feel like I've had some amazing connections, one on one." Knox says.
Within a few months of his little experiment, "Date While You Wait" exploded on social media and then onto the mainstream media. Every news outlet in the world was reaching out to Thomas, including the New York Times, CBS, BBC, NBC, NPR, Timeout Magazine, The Philadelphia Enquirer, and everything in between.
He was then hired to travel around the world speaking to kids and spreading his "Don't be afraid to try new things" mantra. He also sells a unique line of bow ties that continue to preach his gospel. They say things like "BE GREAT" and "YOU CAN DO IT."
Now, with all his success, Thomas will get a bigger soapbox in which to speak and be seen. Knox has signed with the Emmy-Award winning production company, David Harris Katz Entertainment. Together they will allow viewers to peer into Knox's conversations and listen to the intimate details that made Knox New York's underground therapist. A full season is now available for licensing.
"I am not looking for love through this
particular venue, I just wanted a simple way for people to have a positive social interaction outside of traditional social media, people need to communicate more face to face."
Thomas Knox, 33, grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He had a tough
time as a child and did not want kids to go through what he did. His
mother was on drugs and he and his siblings ended up in foster care.
He eventually ended up in a group home. He was told he would never
amount to anything.
Thomas knew he didn’t want the life that his mother had, so he had to overcome all of the obstacles that were in his way. He did this by leaning on others who could lift him out of the desperate existence he was living.
While in the group home, he met other young men who were in the same predicament as he was. They were of all colors and religions. Everyone was from a broken home. He realized he was not alone and they were all alike, no matter what their background was. This gave him the confidence to build relationships. He felt like he was part of a special community. He found a sense of brotherhood.
It was this brotherhood that gave him direction. He went from feeling forgotten to having a positive path to follow. This is what inspired him to give back!
As he got older, he would help out wherever he could. He knew that any young kid who felt lost, just needed some guidance, just like he did. He volunteered for many organizations including, Philly After School Activities Partnership, HashTag Lunch Bag, 1149 Cooperative, The Known Campaign, and the Sista 2 Sista Youth Summit.
Thomas’ success giving to others was really having an impact, so he continued to pay it forward wherever and whenever the chance arose.
His motivational disposition and uplifting spirit took him all over the world. He was invited to speak in Lille, France, where he shared his perspective at the World Forum of a Responsible Economy summit where he was the recipient of the “No Limits for a Young World” award. He was also a speaker for Conscious Campus at the University of New Hampshire and Penn State. And he also spoke at the Fringe Festival in Vancouver, Canada.
But his spreading of the gospel didn’t stop there. He created the Connection Collective, a community of initiatives focused on developing and encouraging extraordinary human connections. His goal is to cultivate impactful experiences while challenging and empowering young people to connect in unique ways. He does this through workshops, events, and community initiatives.
Some of the institutions he’s given workshops to include the Harlem Children’s Zone, MS898 in Brooklyn, Victory Collegiate High School, and Artistic Noise among others. “Thomas let our students participate in a session of “Date While You Wait,” which is built off of what he calls the 3 C’s; Courage, Confidence, and Communication. Sharing these principles in an approachable and relatable way was immensely helpful to our students as they seek to develop the skills necessary to navigate a social world.” says Karen Pilgrim, After School Specialist, Geoffrey Canada’s Promise Academy.
Since he didn’t have the mother he always wanted, he now distributes Mother’s Day cards every year. He wants mothers to know they are loved and appreciated and that they mean so much. He also hosted a Woman’s History Month event to let thousands of women understand their effect on young children.
Thomas is most proud of being able to inspire young people of color. Thomas is extremely thankful for the way his life turned out. He was able to grow to a level never imaginable and now has the ability to inspire others as the heroes in his life did for him. This is why Thomas is so passionate about what he does. Thomas’ unique perspective has improved the lives of thousands of young people around the world.