-August 28, 2017-
For those of you who do not know, I live in New York-grew up here my entire life. I love New York because of its convenience, vitality, and thrill. Living in the city, I am given so many options for what to eat and what to do. For instance, there was a time when I was feeling Italian so I was heading over to L’Artusi in the West Village. But once I got there, I felt like having Japanese ramen instead. If I was at another place besides New York, I would’ve just suppressed my Asian cravings and have eaten spaghetti and escolar instead. But New York is such a great city for capricious people like me because the only thing I had to do was walk three blocks down to get to Takashi- one of my favorite places for some really delicious Japanese ramen. But apart from this situation, there were numerous times when I’ve experienced some form of convenience as a city dweller.
As a New Yorker however, there is one thing that I cannot appreciate (although I should), and that is the MTA-New York’s public transportation system. I’m sure many New Yorkers would be able to agree with me on this. The subway rides in the morning are disastrous, especially during the rush hour when everyone is trying to get on the express train to get to work or to school. It is literally a battlefield on the trains.
I attend school in the uptown area of NYC and with all the transfers and delays, my commute can sometimes be as long as two hours. Now think about that-two hours of underground commute, being pushed and pulled by countless people (literally). Even this morning, I had to deal with a woman who pulled my bookbag with such force that I almost fell backwards-just so that she can get on the train before me. (Ugh).
Every morning, I am determined to become a better person who brings a positive change to those around me. In fact, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is smile in front of the mirror that I placed right next to my bed. This may sound a bit weird but it is my own way of reminding and motivating myself to be positive and kind throughout the day. When I smile, I am essentially telling myself, “Good luck on another tough day that is ahead of you! You can do it! If you encounter rude people on the way, still be kind and understanding!”
But to be honest, situations like what happened to me this morning can easily undermine that conviction of mine. It sometimes makes me feel like there is no point of me trying to be nice. I mean, what’s the use? No one seems to appreciate my acts of courtesy. I’ve experienced instances when people didn’t even say “thank you” when I gave up my seat for them and other times when people yelled at me for not moving when all I tried to do was let them go ahead of me because they looked like they were in a hurry.
Circumstances like these make me want to forget the promise that I made with myself in the mornings and give up on being considerate and generous to others.
But what happened to me on the way back home from school showed me that there is still hope in humanity and that love can still be shared even among strangers. This is how the story goes and it involves an old man, a little girl, and me.
- Old man: About in his early sixties; uncomfortable when walking or standing on his right leg.
- Little girl: About 6 years old; carrying a huge bookbag half her size; constantly telling her parents she wants to sit down.
- Me (the narrator): 22 year old college student; carrying 3 textbooks in her arms as well as a bookbag with a binder, laptop, and another textbook.
- 6 p.m. in the evening on the 6-train heading downtown.
After a tough day at school, I was finally heading home. While in a hurry, I dropped all my textbooks that I was carrying with me and spilled the ice coffee that I just took out from Gregory’s Coffee. I thought the day seriously couldn’t get any worse than this, especially because I was constantly reminded of what the woman did to me in the morning. Too much physical burden was gradually turning me into a bitter person like how fruits or vegetables slowly rot after dealing with the heat for too long. One more agitator and boom!-I was about to lose it all.
At the train station stood an old man and a young girl with her parents next to me. The old man seemed uncomfortable to be walking on his right leg as he limped on his way to the platform, placing most of his weight on his left leg. The young girl had a huge bookbag on her back, which was half her body size. She kept asking her mom “Mommy, can I sit down somewhere?”, expressing her urgent need to rest her legs. All three of us at that moment seemed so miserable.
The train finally came after what felt like 6 hours (but in actuality, 6 minutes). As the three of us entered, we all had our eyes on one thing-an empty seat! I thought, “Oh my goodness! An empty seat? During rush hour? The first good thing that has happened to me today!” But just as I was thinking that, I also thought of the old man and the young girl. I was in a dilemma. My conscience and heart was telling me to not take the seat. On the other hand, I thought of the tough day that I had to go through and the instances when people took the seats that I gave up for for them for granted. But as always, my mind could not conquer my heart and I offered the seat to the old man.
And here is when the beautiful thing happened. Instead of taking the seat, the man said, “Oh I am fine! You should sit down with all your heavy books. I don’t have anything to carry.” But the more he resisted, the more I wanted to give him the seat.
It works like that. When someone is nice to you, you want to be nicer; when someone is rude to you, you lose all your motivation to be nice. Because bad fruits bear bad fruits and good fruits bear good fruits.
Seeing that stubborn resistance of mine to sit down, the man laughed and said, “Well then, why don’t we have this young girl sit down?” And of course you would expect the girl to gladly accept the offer and take the seat, especially when she’s been complaining about her legs to her mom. But guess what this little girl said? (You should’ve figured out the pattern by now). She said, “I’m okay. You should sit down because your legs hurt. Mine are fine.” Seriously… I teared up when she said that. Not only was she more mature and considerate than most adults but she knew how to sacrifice her comfort for another individual!
In the midst of the battle called “rush hour commute”, imagine three complete strangers fighting, not for a seat but to give up a seat for one another whom they’ve never met. That required true act of sacrifice because all three of us had to endure some degree of discomfort in order to have another individual have the seat. In the end, none of us took the seat. Some people may call us foolish saying, “One of you guys should’ve taken the seat!” But by then, I don’t think any one of us wanted the seat. In fact, I don’t even think we needed the seat because the act of kindness that we’ve shown to one other gave us enough energy to not have to sit down 💕.
Now I don’t know how many people this story will reach and how many will actually read it. I am not writing this story hoping that it will change the world and I know it probably won’t. But what I do know is that this story did impact the three of us who were part of it and it will indeed, change us for the better and be remembered in our hearts for a long time. And that is enough of a reason for me to be nicer to others even at the cost of my own sacrifice sometimes.
My actions don’t have to change the world. If they can change even a single person whom I encounter or just simply make his/her day better, that is more than enough reason for me to continue sacrificing.
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