Monday, March 30, 2015

just a man on a train

I saw this man on the train coming back from my race yesterday. He might have been homeless but I'm not sure. He was clearly disheveled. He was reeking of alcohol and it wasn't even quite 11am, carrying a pizza box from a super cheap pizza chain and a bag with two large cans of beer in it. He said "good morning" to the train and nobody said anything.  People just looked away uncomfortably and said nothing. One man picked up his bag from the floor and held it close. So I said good morning back. I mean...he wasn't being rude, right? 

Obviously he's got problems, do we need to add to them? We chatted about the weather and other inconsequential Chicago-ish small talk. He asked if I'd just run 'that race'. All he wanted was a little conversation. Maybe he wanted to fit in for just that minute in time. He's still human. 

Who knows what led him to this point. I know enough to know that I'm just glad it isn't me or a loved one--because the truth is, it could be. Right? My brother is mentally ill and I am sure there have been times when he benefitted from the kindness of a total stranger. Why can't we all be that beacon of kindness, or if that's too hard, can't we just try to be a little less gawk-ish? I understand, i really do. But I felt that his "good morning" was a plea for some sense of normalcy. He wasn't asking for money. He wasn't being obnoxious. He was asking to be treated like the rest of us. 

When I left the train I said "you have a good day, sir," and I meant it, as cheesy as it sounded, and as unhelpful as it may have been for him. He thanked me and said God bless you. I'm not the most religious person but I said "to you as well." 

Why is it so hard just to be nice to people who might need it the most? To people who are so different from us? Now I know I'm as moody as they come, but was every single person on that train car moody, or have we just gotten to this point where we are that uncomfortable with some of society's truths that it's easier to look away? 

Maybe the guy is a total loser. Or maybe he's a had a life i can't even begin to imagine. But is that up to me to judge and thus determine how I treat him? I don't think so. 

In that moment it made me sad. Sad for him. Sad for the city around us where so many need help. I hope he had a good day. I hope he felt a little less awkward in that awkward silence on the train. Or maybe he was like my brother and didn't even notice it was awkward. It's a rough world out there for some people.

Be nice to each other. 

Wherever he is, I hope he's ok and hanging in there.


Amanda Nyx said...

When I used to be a CTA commuter, I used to make duct tape flowers on the train. I started making them for myself and for projects, but I almost always ended up giving my flowers away to people on the train - sometimes children, sometimes adults who were struggling and really needed a ray of sunshine in their day. It may seem silly but the number of flowers that brought tears to people's eyes... We dehumanize each other shamelessly, and it's time we started changing that.

Thank you for sharing your story. You're making a sad world just a little brighter. Thank you for making a positive impact on someone who hasn't seen much positivity lately.

Lindy said...

Thank you...and I LOVE that you did that. Random acts of kindness, especially when the rest of the world is rushing around us. -Lindy