An Early Christmas on the Subway

Fellow passengers show kindness to a homeless woman on a New York City train.

Posted in , Dec 11, 2018

An early Christmas on the subway

I’d just heard our minister at church talk about how nobody talks to anybody anymore. Everybody is staring at their phone. I’m probably just as guilty of that. But talking to others? Interacting? I can’t comment on what might be happening in your hometown…but in mine, in big supposedly rude New York City, there are unexpected moments of connection.

I happened upon one just the other night. I was commuting home, taking the subway as usual and was glad to get a seat. I took out my Kindle and started reading. Then noticed that nobody was sitting on the three seats across from me.

I quickly figured out why. Next to the empty seats was a slumped figure hiding beneath a black parka, the hood over her head. She smelled as though she hadn’t bathed in a few days. Or whatever she had in the bag at her feet was well past its expiration date.

The next thing I knew a man darted up from his seat and thrust some cash into her hand, then sat back down. She nodded and smiled, a toothless grin. Another man standing in the door started talking to her. “Grandmother,” he called her, “you okay?” We all looked to her for her response. More nods.

“It could be you. It could be me. It could be one our relatives,” he said to the rest of us. Not preaching, just observing. “So true,” said the woman who was with him. He also dug into his pocket and took out some cash to give to her. Others were inspired to do so, too. 

The couple—just before they got off—made an announcement to the rest of us. “We just got married. Just went to City Hall.” Was there a short round of applause from this group of strangers? I remember one. “Congratulations,” someone called out. It occurred to me that the first thing these newlyweds were doing was giving. The perfect start to a marriage.

The woman was still in her seat when my stop came up. I put something in her hand before I got off. It was cold outside, an early preview of winter’s chill. But I felt warmed. I prayed that woman would find a home—somehow—for a warm night’s sleep.

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