On my subway ride into Brooklyn, it’s not uncommon to see a number of performances throughout the journey — a musician strumming his guitar on the platform, hip hop dancers doing flips in between the subway seats, a mariachi band singing “Feliz Navidad” perhaps — all with upward-facing hats, trying to collect an extra buck.
But according to the New York Post, there’s one creative New Yorker who’s offering something else to straphangers waiting for the L train: Emotional advice.
According to the paper, 11-year-old Ciro Ortiz came up with the idea to sell counseling services — something he felt a lot of New Yorkers could benefit from — all on his own. And it’s pretty clear the Bushwick, Brooklyn native knows what the people want.
Sitting at a folding desk with a simple cardboard sign labeled, “Emotional Advice, $2.00,” Ortiz reportedly talks to about 20 to 40 people every Sunday. For five minutes at a time, Ortiz listens and counsels adults on their everyday problems.
And no, it’s not all part of some big joke: After squatting at the Bedford stop on the L train since October, Ortiz has helped men and women with problems ranging from relationship struggles to feelings of sadness.
While Ortiz is a bit younger than most therapists on the market, he thinks his age has actually been beneficial. “They seem inspired that it’s a kid that’s doing this,” Ortiz tells Babble.
Analyzing his experience with New York subway riders, Ortiz wisely points out that adults often get clouded by their emotions and struggle to find a solution to their problems — even if the answer is right in front of them.
“It’s hard for them to deal with change,” Ortiz tells Babble of his customers. “Sometimes people have trouble with small problems and they don’t think of the simplicity of the answer. They are more concerned about their emotions.”
And maybe that’s the novelty of having a little kid offer his honest advice; kids have a way of seeing a problem in its simplest form and calling it out for what it is. And despite having fewer years on this earth, they really do have life lessons offer.
Ortiz was originally inspired to deliver advice to others after dealing with his own conflict with bullies at school.
“Ciro is really sensitive and he’s had a hard time,” Ortiz’s mom, Jasmine Aequitas, told the New York Post. “The first day he was out there, he was very nervous and unsure of himself … A few Sundays later he’s come back saying, ‘I’ve met so many wonderful people. I’m gonna end up having so many friends.’ ”
Apparently, Ortiz’s customers are quite fond of him as well. Ortiz’s dad, Adam Ortiz, told The Post, “Somebody came up to us and said that what he told her is what she’d been feeling in her gut that whole time.”
When he’s not in school, the 6th-grader manages his booth for a couple hours a day, and says he’s glad to be making a difference on a regular basis. “I thought it was a good way to make money, and help people!” said Ortiz.
But while he frequently makes an average of $50 a day, the job is not about the money for this amateur life coach. Ortiz tells Babble that the best part of hosting an advice booth is “the fact that [he] can actually improve someone’s life!”
Emotional advice is something Ortiz says he’s called upon himself in the past whenever he’s had a hard time. In those moments, he says, he often recalls the sage advice his dad once gave him.
“There have been times where I feel upset about something, sad, or mad or scared,” Ortiz explained. “And I remember what my father told me … ‘This isn’t a big deal! Nothing is a big deal.’”
No matter what’s going on in our lives, sometimes we all just need to hear that our problems are never as bad as the seem, and that it will get better. And what better place to hear that than from a cute kid on the subway?
Keep up with Ciro on Instagram, where he shares photos under the handle @EmotionalAdviceKid.More On