At 6:50 this morning, a man got on the train at Dekalb avenue. He began his speech as many people on the subway usually do. “Excuse me, ladies and gentleman…” He continued to say good morning to us and say that he was not asking for money. He had once been unemployed, addicted to drugs, lived on the street, and been hungry. He told us that he had lost his job when the economic crisis hit and went down a path of depression and struggle. He confessed that he had found Jesus in his life and that he was now sober, had a job and a home.
He said to us all, a mostly silent and tired subway car, that though we sit next to each other day after day, we never say “hello” or “good morning” or “how’s it going?”
Most people continued to avert their eyes throughout his speech, but for me it became increasingly difficult. He had a point. He wasn’t begging or asking for sympathy. He was expressing his thanks for finding his way in life and encouraging us all to do the same. He was asking us to be a part of the community that we live in and show care for each other.
After all this, a speech that went on until at least the Bedford avenue stop, he walked through the whole car and said good morning to everyone and smiled. Some people pretended they didn’t see him. With some he even shared some fist bumps.
Around this time of year, this type of gesture makes an impact. The typical subway speech usually causes plenty of discomfort. I think this one at least caused a good discomfort that maybe caused a few of us to think about the community we live in and the judgement we pass on others. It did for me.
“But I guess ultimately what scares me about marriage is where do you find this person? You know a lot of times, most successful relationships, people meet through work, school, mutual friends. But what’s most interesting to me is when people just meet in life, just randomly. You know, I have a…
To put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors—but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires—including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.
“It would be a long while because, quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later – because I did not belong there, did not come from there – but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.”—Joan Didion, “Goodbye To All That” (via coffeestainedcashmere)