Friday, December 29, 2006

Paying forward, not back

It's been an action-packed two days in the office, so I was bone-tired when I boarded the #5 at Grand Central bound for 86th Street. Carrying a shopping bag full of stuff that needed to find its way to my apartment, I was hoping to find a seat on the subway since commuter traffic seemed to be light on this Friday evening before New Years.

Turns out the train wasn't jammed as normal, and a few prize seats beckoned. Alas, I just wasn't quick enough to grab one, as folks jostled by and sat down. The last available seat - within my grasp - disappeared as a teenager pushed past me and took it.

"That's the rudest thing I've ever seen," said a man standing behind me. I gave him a little smile and a shrug. Oh, well. I could stand. No big deal.

Prospects brightened when we got to 59th Street. Several folks with seats lumbered out, and this time I got a seat on a bench vacated by two people. Now, I could've spread out, but that's not my style. Would another whippersnapper push his way past another tired soul to grab the seat?

Nope. About halfway down the car I spotted a grandmother holding a couple of bags, working her way toward me. I put my hand on the seat (lest some cheeky young'un tried anything) and motioned for the woman to take a load off next to me. She sat down with a weary person's weight, smiled, and said a big "Thank you so much!" in a lovely Caribbean accent. Her son and grandkids took their places, standing in front of her. All said hearty "Thanks!"

"I'm getting off at 86th Street, so you'll get one more seat," I said to the group.

As the train slowed to a stop at 86th, the woman turned to me, "Have a wonderful, prosperous New Year. And travel safe!" I wished her the same, we smiled at each other, I gave my seat to the son, and left the train. Somehow, I wasn't quite as tired as I'd been when I boarded the train.

It's always amazing to me how such simple acts of courtesy and kindness can brighten my whole day - whether I'm the "doer" or the "receiver" of such acts. I wonder why we don't do more. Courtesy is easy and free and it's good for the soul.

'Tis better to pay it forward, than to pay it back. Thus ends the lesson.


elsie said...


Liz said...

That's a great story, Mary. As Elsie says, Amen.

chux said...

Yer its amazing how we can lift each other up like that! Just shows the power of kindness and compassion. I bet the teenager had their ipod on full blast too! It's a shame you cant cuff them for being so rude.

Tamar said...

It's true. I have also found that I am re-energized after an act of kindness, connection or bonding with humanity ... sense of good will and community. So important. I love this story.

Joy said...

And a magnificent lesson it is Mary. I am in total agreement. It's so easy to be nice to someone. I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would choose otherwise. Peace to you sweet lady...