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Watch for the Stories

On June 19, 2012 I was 79 years old, and starting to live my 80th year. I decided to write down Things I Have Learned So Far:

12. Watch for the stories

I sat on the New York subway one time in the 80’s and I watched as a Mother and her little boy of four or five got on. She sat him on one of the seats of three that are against the side of the subway, and then she sat right on one of the seats of two that are perpendicular to the seats of three.

As we rode along, she started to read a book and I watched the little boy get sleepy and his head started to nod. You know that feeling we all have had when we start to nod off to sleep and then you catch yourself and straighten your head up, and then before you know it, you nod again and your head slips to the side. His did and finally rested on the shoulder of the man sitting next to him.

It is perhaps important to note that the little boy and his mother were black and the man was white. The man smiled as the little boy leaned against him, and I saw him start to watch the Mother because he knew that sooner or later she would look up. And she did look up and when that happened he motioned quickly to her that it was o.k. and to let the little boy stay there. She smiled and the little boy slept on.

And then it was obvious to me that the man was getting ready to get off. The subway car was a little crowded now with people standing. Without saying a word, he motioned to the white man standing near him, that he could have his seat, but that letting the child continue to lean on him was part of the deal. The other man nodded and it was agreed.

Very carefully the first man placed his hand under the little boy’s head and held it carefully as he slid his body out of the seat. The other man just as carefully slipped into the vacant seat and the first man let the little boy’s head rest on the second man’s arm. The boy stirred and nestled in again. The mother watched just as I had and smiled again.

And the miracle was accomplished.

What I learned was that if I stay alert and watch for the stories around me, I can often see gentleness, this time on a New York subway.

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