Glimpses of humanity

30 Jun

As I pushed through the turnstiles, I saw the last lights of the train disappearing into the tunnel, the letter too distant to read. Was it the express or the local?  How quickly could I get to my next meeting?  It was one of those days when I wished I had an office, having spent the morning going from Chelsea to Midtown and now I was off to Crown Heights in Brooklyn before meeting a friend in Chinatown later.  My to-do list wasn’t shrinking as the day went on and I was just wishing for a few hours of focused work, which wasn’t about to come my way.

making my way through the city

making my way through the city

As I cursed just missing the train, I noticed a couple waiting near the rear of the station, surrounded by their bags.  I noticed the man first as he had his hair and beard dyed red in a typical fashion with some men in India.  While I observed their luggage surrounding them, I barely made note of it and walked further up the station to kill time waiting for the next train.

A few minutes later, that felt like an eternity as I paced back and forth, the local train rushed into the station.  I got into the last car and saw the couple running down towards the train.  The woman blocked the door as the man shouted ‘Brooklyn?  Nwerudadlfhod?’.  He shouted it again, looking around for a response.  One or two people nodded, having heard, and understood, Brooklyn.  But that other word?  Where else was he looking for?

Finally, another man said, ‘Nostrand?’, and the Indian man nodding emphatically   Ah, I sighed with relief, now I know where they are going.  Now I could help.

At each stop, the man looked around him and asked, loudly, ‘Brooklyn?  Nostrand?’, and though still difficult to understand, now I sought out his face, willing him to look my way so I could shake my head, ‘no, no this is not your stop’.  Instead, I made eye contact with the woman and shook my head with a smile.  She smiled back at me, understanding I was there to help.  At each consequent stop, she looked to me, knowing I was there to help.  Meanwhile her husband still searched around him, not connecting with any one person, yet still wanting help.

I wanted to waggle my head at her, in that Indian fashion, to have her know that I was someone she could trust.  I know you, I see you, I am here to help.  Eventually we got to their stop and several people indicated to them that this was where they needed to get off the train.  Off they went.  The woman smiled her thanks to me as the train pulled out of the station.

smiles from students in india

smiles from students in india

 

I sat back, relaxing on the rest of my ride, feeling the tiniest bit of community with those around me.  Though we hadn’t really connected, there was a crackle of connection in the air.  Several of us had helped that Indian couple, giving directions, reassuring them they were going to the right stop.  NYC is known for it’s tough exterior, the walls that get put up.  People live in their own worlds, headphones on, disconnecting to those around them.  But, moments like these, when humanity breaks through, it makes me love this city a little bit more.  Underneath it all, we all really do want to connect.

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6 Responses to “Glimpses of humanity”

  1. Kim (@RTWsomanyplaces) June 30, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    I have tears in my eyes. I’m so glad that you got to help the, that others helped them, that my country treated them well because their country treated me so well when I was there. And I completely agree that we all really do want to connect. It’s what makes life feel ALIVE, yet it’s so hard for us to do it in this day and age. Why?

    • planetaurora June 30, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      I thought the same thing — people in India were always helpful to me! But I think that here, in this country, we are so removed from one another. Think about in south america — people, for the most part, aren’t listening to their headphones – they just play their music on their phone for _everyone_ to hear. There isn’t as much of a separation of me/you and us/them. But here, I find, we are so afraid to connect in real time in real life, instead technology starts to take over, we shield ourselves against possible vulnerability that connection gives us. It’s hard.

  2. Lissett June 30, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    That is why it is so important to travel and study about other cultures,countries you are able to understand,identify and over all help and feel awsome that you were part of this one human world.
    Those are the little rewards in life that makes us great.

    • planetaurora June 30, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

      Lissette — you are so right. travel helps break down the other-ness of others! Those are great little rewards!

  3. Hannah July 1, 2013 at 4:39 am #

    I love those beautiful moments of connection, or almost-connection, especially when it transcends language or culture. That you were able to offer reassurance in what could have otherwise been a very challenging time for that couple is a rare gift. I have travelled to India many times, and it is moments like this that characterise my experience there. It makes me happy to know that it can work both ways.

    • planetaurora July 1, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      Totally! Those connections make us more human in a world that seems to be taking away that human-ness all the time!

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