I ran down the stairs to the subway to see that a train had just pulled in. My monthly pass is having trouble, and now I’m worried that the train is going to pull away before I can even reach the platform.
I look up, and the train conductor sticks his head out of the window and smiles. It takes me a moment to realize that he is waiting for me. I’m surprised by this gesture, but overwhelmed by his kindness. I make sure to say goodbye when I arrive at my destination.
I think of this the next morning as I wait for my bus. I see a man running from a block away, just as the bus before me is about to close its doors. I flag the bus down for him. Why not? I know what it’s like to be running for a bus, and to watch it drive away. I try to help someone out when I can.
The past year has been frustrating, and sometimes I felt it was infuriating. The job search is exhausting, and these days it’s a completely different monster than it used to be. Ignored, belittled, led on…does it feel like dating? Not every experience is like this, but there are definitely times when I say to myself, ‘that was rude’, but I know that people can get away with it because of the job market.
Regardless, it’s no walk in the park for hiring managers, either. For anyone. In short, like the train conductor, or with the man trying to catch the bus, sometimes just letting someone know you care to help out or pay attention is monumental. I can’t thank everyone enough for all of the help and guidance they have given me.
Along that same line, I think we can become afraid to reach out to others sometimes. It’s much safer when we don’t have to. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but if you keep waiting for the next person to do something…what if they think the same thing? Then nobody does anything.
I had packed some food with me before leaving work–leftovers that were a free for all, but sometimes get left and become stale. I thought I would have some of the granola for breakfast, and also give some food to someone in need. Last year I gave a guy in front of Starbucks bagels almost every day for a few weeks. It was devastating to see how excited he was when I gave him a bag of food.
On my way home I passed a group of people sitting on the side of the street. Two of them were huddled under a blanket in the corner of the Macy’s. I stopped and asked them if they’d like some food.
“Oh, gee,” The man peered out from his blanket. It wasn’t the healthiest food, and mostly sugar and carbs. But I can’t imagine sleeping on the sidewalk without food on a night like tonight. Or any night, really.
I immediately felt bad because I didn’t have enough for the entire group. As I am walking away, I hear someone trying to say something. I turn around and a tall guy, maybe a teenager or in his early twenties, has his hand raised, as if he is waiting for me to call on him. He mimes a bit to me, and I realize that he cannot speak. “I have some granola.” I say, holding it out to him. You’d think I just told him I had a million dollars by the look on his face.
He smiles and takes the bag of granola, and then signs “I love you”. It’s heartbreaking.
When I depart I can’t help but to cry. That’s just the way I am. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have a home, warmth, and food, and it pains me so much to see people sad and suffering.
I get on my bus with this in mind, still upset. As the bus heads down the street, though, something out of the corner of my eye startles me.
I look out the window and see a man, shirtless, lying in the street. He looks confused.
I shoot a glance at the bus driver. Nothing. I look at everyone around me. Either they don’t care, or don’t notice because they are plugged into their smartphone.
My phone flashes a ‘low battery’ warning. I feel that I have to do something. This man is lying down in the street, at night. If he isn’t already injured, there are tons of buses and cars headed his way. I text my sister to describe the man, the street intersection, and to call 911. My phone is dying.
She says, “does nobody else on the bus have a phone?”
Sadly, I reply that I don’t think anyone else cares.
Maybe I overreacted. But, to be honest, if this man had been dressed differently, been a different race, or looked to be more wealthy, I think more people would have been concerned that he was lying down in the middle of a busy street in the dark.
When I meet my sister for dinner, she tells me that the police were already heading over from a previous call. The man had been assaulted, which is what I thought from what I had seen.
But still. Nobody else cared or noticed.
Not only do the little things, like helping a neighbor catch the bus, add up…or the more serious issues, like giving someone food on a cold, rainy night…but opportunities to speak up are crucial. What if every person thought, that’s weird that a man is in the street, I hope someone makes sure he is ok? He would never get help.
Sure. It’d be easier to throw out the food that nobody touched. But is it really so hard to pack it up and give it to a guy who can’t even speak up for himself? Or anyone who needs it, for that matter?
I see caring people everywhere. Even kind and considerate strangers. But it does scare me to see so many people plugged into their devices at times, like they would rather stay in their earbudded bubble than to deal with human interaction. I have to say I was embarrassed last week when a woman was struggling to get off of the subway with her cart full of bags. I have seen her before and she usually yells at me, or other people, but it is clear to me that she needs mental health assistance. She was having a lot of trouble getting off of the train, and everyone was too scared to help, even to hold the door for her. Well, except for one young guy who got up and moved the cart out for her. I felt terrible for not doing anything, but when I looked around, nobody else seemed to have even looked up from their phones.
And here ends your PSA.