Every year has its ups and downs, but this past year has had more than its fair share of stress. Whether it was a controversial election cycle or the avalanche of sexual assault allegations, 2017 was a stressful year. In times like these, going back to your core values becomes critical. They are what get you out of bed in the morning and keep you going.

The great thing about ethics is you don’t have to be a scholar to tap into it. The New York Society for Ethical Culture (Ethical NYC), a humanist community dedicated to ethics, social justice, and educationstarted the “Ethical Humans” social media campaign to highlight how their members and participants lead ethical lives through adversity. We posed a simple question to these individuals: How do you lead an ethical life on a daily basis? Their responses were inspiring and further prove that when times get tough, returning to your core values can always help you find your way.

An Immigrant Finding His Place

Favio is a 20-year-old Haitian immigrant living in Brooklyn. He came to New York after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, an extremely traumatic experience for the then 14-year-old Favio. He has immersed himself in volunteer work to help him through his trauma, including working regularly with a local homeless shelter in his Brooklyn community. He finds that helping others in need – and seeing the positive impact he has on another person’s life – helps him move forward.

A Women in Transition

Michelle Ainsworth is a transgender female who is undergoing transition as well as supporting her partner through that same journey. For years Michelle felt trapped in her body and struggled with depression. She used to feel like she was trapped in a cage, but now describes herself as “the oldest teenage girl you’ve ever met.” While the transition process is far from easy, Michelle notes that it saved her life. Michelle is a writer and is currently “writing the books she wished other people would have written”, which will take the form of a Young Adult novel.

A Daughter Working Through Grief

Mita Carriman rarely thought about death until she lost two of her parents in less than two years. During this time, she was not only dealing with immense grief but also the financial burdens of burying a loved one. Not one to rest until a problem is solved, Mita worked on technology that offered a dignified and elegant way to ease these burdens. Her solution was Sunsetting, an online memorial platform that enables users to fundraise for memorial services, announce and invite guests to funeral services and share comments and stories about the deceased. This “collective grief experience,” as Mita calls it, creates a roadmap to help a grieving family properly honor and celebrate the life of their loved ones.

A Dancer Who Turns Trauma into Healing

Jinah Parker is the creator of SHE, a choreoplay that sheds light on sexual violence against women and girls and offers solutions through a mix of dance, drama, music and film. Jinah chose choreography as her medium because she feels that dance and movement have a way to portray emotions and feelings that are difficult to put into words. While SHE is an incredible art piece, it’s purpose goes far beyond entertainment. Jinah created SHE to start a dialogue about eradicating this issue both on a personal and societal level, while also inspiring empowerment and healing. While these conversations are heavy, Jinah and the cast note that they often instill a sense of hope and urgency.

A Teacher Who Expands His Students’ Horizons

Steven Serling’s students at Park East High School in East Harlem may live in Manhattan but, as he tells it, they don’t feel a part of that community south of 96th street. Not one to sit back and do nothing, he used his role as teacher to expose them to all the city has to offer. To help his Harlem students reconnect with their larger NYC community, Steven started the NYC Explorers club to help his students embrace other parts of the city from the Upper West Side to DUMBO in Brooklyn. 

These five individuals are living proof that there is no one correct way to live an ethical life. As long as you stick to your values and inspire others to do the same, you can consider yourself an Ethical Human, too. 


  • Dr. Anne Klaeysen

    Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture

    Anne Klaeysen is an Ethical Culture Leader, certified by the American Ethical Union as clergy, and serving the NY Society for Ethical Culture. She is also the Ethical Humanist Religious Life Advisor at Columbia University and the Humanist Chaplain at New York University. Klaeysen is co-dean of the Center for Education of the American Humanist Association. She holds BA and MA degrees in German from the State University of NY at Albany and studied for two years at the Universitaet Wuerzburg in Germany. She also earned an MBA from Stern School of Business at New York University and a Doctor of Ministry degree in pastoral counseling from Hebrew Union College.