I don’t care about the weather, I’m going out this winter. I’m taking the bus. And the subway. And I’m walking . I’m doing these things because when I take public transportation instead of driving and when I walk instead of riding, I see things I would otherwise miss. The best way to get the sense of the newness of each new day is to get out there and swim in it, I now see.
I did this ten days ago week when I took a bus, and then a subway car, and then walked half a mile to get to the medical center where I receive all my care. On the way, this is what I saw:
- I saw that people are becoming braver about objecting to the use of phones on public conveyances. I was taking a call from someone in my doctor’s office who was trying to set up an appointment for me. Just then a woman who looked to be in her early 80s rose from the seat behind me and tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I would mind moving to a different seat if I was going to talk on the phone like this. I so appreciated her forthrightness because we all do have to be mindful about everyone’s comfort when we are sharing public spaces – and this wasn’t my only lesson for the day.
- I also saw that money isn’t the only way to show appreciation when I entered the subway station’ and saw a man with a guitar, his open guitar case holding a few CDs and a flutter of dollar bills. I smiled at him as the last chords of his musical offering died away in that high tiled space.“You missed it!” he called to me cheerily. But the subway car had already screeched to a stop and I knew I had to sprint to get on it. “Next time?” I called, gesturing toward the dollar bills, but he shook his head and smiled that wonderful letting-you-off-the hook smile that people use to indicate that money is much beside the point.
- Once I was on the subway car, I found myself seated beside a girl toting three duffel bags, and wearing an Army jacket, a lip ring and a wool blanket arranged flying-nun-style atop her blonde curls. We had seen each other twice already, once as we both walked from the bus station to the subway and again when she had shouted “Happy New Year!” to everyone on the escalator so it seemed like a good time to say something. “I love your hat,” I whispered to her. “Oh yeah?” she smiled. “My grandma made it for me.” Then she sighed and said she couldn’t wait to get home, as it had been a long trip and her back was hurting a lot. Funny, I thought, because MY back was hurting a lot too because of the spill I took a few days before. In fact, when I woke up that day all I could think was “Get me to the doctor!” and “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts.”
- But my best revelation occurred when I cut through the lobby of the fancy hotel next to my destination and saw a woman with arms that ended at her elbows. She was perched on a stool at the bar and laughing in jokey cahoots with the bartender, her shoes kicked off and an elegant goblet of wine before her.
So we all have restrictions, it seems, and long days too, some filled with pain. But if we can just get ourselves ‘out there’ we can grow self-forgetful, if only for a time, just by witnessing all the valiant life around us.