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.