So I made it to New York to get some much needed encouragement from some like minded people and to brainstorm some collaborative marketing efforts. It was a short trip, a day, and I am again sitting in an airport hoping to get on a flight home. New York is a great place to get a dose of the world…the good, bad and the ugly. They are all here in numbers that will forever boggle my mind. Whenever I am here I extend myself to the nth degree in an effort to find the good amidst the chaos. I am always surprised at how being nice to a person who doesn’t look at all “nice” will bring a smile that might not have been shared in a very long time. As I find my way through the confusing labyrinth of subways and streets that seem to never end, I am aware of how insignificant we each are on our own. I imagine the thoughts people might be running through in their minds as they hurry past me, and I wonder where each one is on this complex road we call life.
For me the sensory overload is almost too much so I intently watch lives intersect in what seems to be a world of “every man for themselves.” A woman on the subway declares to the passengers that she has multiple sclerosis and is struggling to raise a child on her own. She asks anyone to give what they can to help her. No one appears to be listening as I’m sure her story is one of hundreds these people encounter in their simple efforts to move around in their lives. I give her the $3.00 I have in my wallet. I don’t believe doing this makes me better or worse and I doubt it has much effect on this woman’s life whether her story is real or fabricated to cover up some different tragic back story. I just know doing this makes me feel like I am present…not detached, numb or so deeply enthralled by my own life and struggles that I am deaf to another.
Later in the day we are buying our subway fares to get back across town and a very attractive woman asks me for change for a dollar bill. She needs coins and as much as I want to help, I can only find two in the mess at the bottom of my purse. I give them to her and she hands me the dollar bill which I decline to take. To me giving a person a couple of quarters does not seem like a big gesture but this woman genuinely didn’t understand my refusal to take her money. She gave me back the quarters and walked away. I wonder why it is so hard for us to accept kindness without feeling the need to in some way pay for it. It’s no longer kindness in that case, merely a trade. I was disappointed because for whatever reason, I wanted to be allowed to be kind and carry with me what that feeling does for my soul.
As we waited for the train next to the stairs that came down from the street level, two women with a young boy between them came rushing down. They were each holding one of the child’s arms and in their hurry they pulled him too fast and he fell down the last few steps…first on his face then on his back. He was about five I’m guessing and as he lay there crying I had to resist the urge to run over and comfort him. Both women were screaming at him to get up. As he was finally yanked to his feet and told to shut up, I had to turn away and fight to keep the tears in my eyes from beginning to fall. I got on my train and prayed silently for that little boy…and as much as I could, for whoever those women were. I also prayed for myself to understand what it is I should do the next time I am witness to the uglier side of humanity. Should I have said something? What if saying something made it worse? As I sit here in the airport now every crying child brings that moment in time back into focus and I find myself lost in this one question…”What will it take to change humanity?…What will it take?