A stranger on the subway and a pack of tissues made all the difference.
Posted in , Feb 22, 2017
We all know that Jesus urged us to treat others as we would want to be treated, to love our neighbors as ourselves. I would propose that when that happens it’s a form of prayer.
Sometimes, though, what others want to do unto you is not exactly what you’re expecting. It can take you by surprise.
The other day, a blustery winter day, I got on to the subway and sat next to a perfect stranger gazing at her phone. I took out the book I was reading. Totally absorbed, I was lost to the world.
Now I should tell you that my wife has suggested I carry a packet of tissues with me in my parka or in my briefcase in case I ever need them. Good advice that I have never followed. This must be a guy thing; I tell myself, “When am I ever going to need tissues?”
That blustery day, that wintery day, my nose was running. (Forgive me for going into too much detail here.) My nose was running, and I didn’t notice it.
Apparently, though, someone else did. All at once the stranger sitting next to me reached into her purse and took out a fresh packet of tissues, dangling them in front of my (dripping) nose.
I don’t mean to make her gesture sound rude. It was graciously done and kindly meant.
“Thank you,” I said, “that’s very nice of you.” I pulled a few tissues out of the packet. It was like being offered a breath mint. If someone offers you a breath mint, you take it. No questions asked.
I dabbed at my nose, grateful for the tissue. I put the second one in my pocket for reserve.
I returned to my book. She returned to whatever she was reading on her cell phone. She got off a couple of stops later. We exchanged smiles. That was all.
Later I read something in that book about generosity and how a kind deed could transform a day. I thought of the stranger. Then I put my hand in the pocket of my parka. There was the second tissue.
I like keeping it there, to remind me to be similarly, unexpectedly, modestly or even extravagantly generous. Someday I hope I make someone else’s day.