The New York City subway is many things: dirty, smelly, confusing, extensive, interesting and a world within a world. It is the life underneath one of the greatest cities in the world, and you could literally live there. I once knew a Watson Scholar who spent a year underground, living entirely in the different subway systems of major cities across the world, researching what life is really like as a proper underground native. Now, every time I venture into that underground world, I am fascinated and mesmerized by every detail of the systematic foundation stone beneath the city.
Interestingly enough, I have learned that I am much better navigating subways in foreign languages than in my own native tongue. Maybe it is because I am forced to focus while abroad and am self-sufficient, versus, this weekend when I just let my friend Gloria do all the work and I followed her like a shadow.
Sunday morning, an elderly homeless-looking man approached us in the Times Square metro while we were trying to translate the map to get to Harold Square for breakfast. Bundled up in typical New York layers, and with an official NYC Subway Volunteer lanyard identification hanging around his neck, he gently smiled at us and asked to help direct us. The Metro Man spent a good five minutes dispensing what I think was New York’s finest hospitality. He smiled, spoke to us about Virginia, ushered us onto the next subway car, and then headed off with a smile to help a confused looking Korean.
It is the Metro Men and women of the world that can make big cities feel like cozy neighborhoods. They are the types of people that inspire me to be a little less selfish and make me want to be much more giving. True selflessness is to be giving to both those you know and to strangers.
I am going to make a conscientious effort to be selfless to strangers this week in honor of my Metro Man ….will you do the same?