the young and the old

My recent posts have been about food (to call it my “passion” would be an understatement, but I’d rather not discuss this right now), but I expect that at the end of this year, I will have many subway stories to tell.

It was an important day for Bostonians, thus the train was incredibly full. There were Red Sox jerseys and caps scattered all over the subway. I held on to the metal pool on my right, as my body violently shook with the train’s departure. Scanning my surroundings, I took notice of a young lady, dressed semi-professionally, pressing a folder against her chest as she stared down her notes. Given that the train was packed, a female university student accidentally bumped into her with her overflowing backpack. A less than friendly glare was thrown her way, but at that time of the day, who wouldn’t.

A couple of stations later, seats started to become available and the young lady swiftly claimed a spot for herself as she continued to stare down her notes. One stop later, an elderly man sporting a walking frame entered the train and I noticed that he was eyeing the seat the young lady was occupying. He approached her in the speed his walking frame allowed him to walk, as she sensed his presence and hesitantly looked up.

“Oh, would you like to sit here?” she bluntly asked.

I was surprised that she had to ask him and not offer him the seat.

I heard no words come from his mouth, but the young lady said, “There is a seat right there. I mean, you can sit there.”

She was pointing towards that one seat I always thought of as the “solitary seat,” where there is no way you can be attacked by people’s backpacks even in crowded situations. There was no way the elder man was going to manage to twist his body in the small space and hold on to his walking frame.

“These are priority seats,” remarked an elderly woman sitting next to the young lady.

“Oh, they are?”

Without uttering an apology, she quickly made her way to the solitary seat, with her face, now red, buried in her notes again.

The last thing I heard before I resumed listening to my music was: “They should know this by now.”

They = other people? I suspect she was hinting towards the youth who inhabit this Earth today. Shame on us…

Fast forward two days and it was finally Friday, one day before the victory parade that would take over the entire city of Boston. I sighed in relief that it was finally the end of the week, as I took my usual spot on the train. I stood facing an elder woman who wore a black and white long skirt and a black bandanna that covered her head. Her face was small, which made her dangling earrings seem bigger than they actually were. Something about her caught my eye. Perhaps it was the grin that she wore on her face.

After one stop, a couple of people hopped on the train, but we took longer to depart this station. A middle-aged woman wearing a baby blue sweatshirt was holding up the line because she either did not have a train pass or she was searching for money to pay for her fare. A couple of stations later, as the middle-aged woman leaned against a wall, the grinning elder woman stretched out her hand with a train pass in it. She was giving her train pass away to the woman because she felt that she would make more use of it in the future. I caught myself watching this incident wide-eyed as others were smiling at these women.

Unlike the previous incident, the elderly woman gave without expecting anything in return and offered without being asked to act – perfect examples of the power of giving to others and receiving from others. You never know when you can transform someone’s day with a simple action or movement. These women have definitely reminded me of something very important.

T.

challenge

This was my initial reaction to what I saw in the subway on my way to class today.

When my friend sent me this illustration in the morning, I wouldn’t expect that I would be expressing this amount of disapproval towards another human being.

I was standing on my usual corner in the subway car, when I see two older women (late 60s, I’d say) join the marvelous party that is the MBTA’s Green Line. The train conductor doesn’t wait for newcomers to take a seat, so off we go, while both ladies find their balance by holding onto each other’s bags and search for seats together. Voilá! And there are none, but there are plenty of vacant places to sit. Some folks, however, occupy two seats: one for their bums, the other for their Jansports, Oakley backpacks, or designer handbags. Then there are three seats, two are vacant, and the one in the middle is occupied. Most likely, people would not sit next to you because you are in the awkward middle seat. Now, if you sat on either end, at least there would be that (un)comfortable vacant spot between you and the stranger. Sounds familiar?

These two women locate two spots where they could potentially sit, but there is a young woman, and I repeat, young woman, occupying the awkward middle seat. One of them gently asked: “May we have these seats so that we may sit together?” The young woman neither blinked nor raised her chin from her screen. She didn’t even have earphones on. All she had to do was move one seat over, but she chose not to. The women did not make much of it, as they continued searching for places to sit. As they walked past me, I expected that they would be discussing the incident and how rude the young woman was. Instead, they were more concerned about finding seats together. Before she rose to get off the train, I caught her glancing and shaking her head towards the direction where the older women went.

I came home and discussed the incident with my sister. We tried to find ways to see this incident in a positive way, but it was hard. It was almost as if we were trying to justify her actions. Perhaps she was having a bad day or maybe she has always been giving in to others, but today she chose to do whatever she wanted. But our problems are not other people’s problems and definitely her problems were not the older women’s problems either.

I barely started my blog and this post is not about kindness, love, or friendship. I knew it would be a challenge for me, but this is why I chose to do it. It actually serves as a concrete example of what we need most.

P.S. – The illustration above is not my own. Please visit http://www.julianoyi.com for more amazing art by this extremely talented friend of mine 😀 !

T.