02 December 2006

people are humans

new yorkers will know what i mean.

tired, after christmas shopping all day, t and i were waiting for the L train to whisk us back to brooklyn. when the train came, of course, we were standing between two cars, and as the left looked nearly empty, and the right, the last and always the most crowded, was quite crowded, we immediately went into the train car. we were tired, and wanted to sit.

immediately, we both noticed the foul smell in the car, and commented on it, but were tired. people moved to the next carriages, noses wrinkled, while others, like us, grateful to have a seat, remained. it wasn't the worst i've smelled, and i've smelled some really terrible things before. we ignored it as best we could, and talked about our day. at the next stop, people entered, made faces, and ran into the next very-crowded cars. (this is the same as the non-air-conditioned train in the summertime.)

at 3rd avenue, these boys--probably fourteen years old to seventeen years--ran in, whooping, shouting. then--"damn, this shit stink!" "this car smell like SHIT!" "disgusting!" "what the fuck smell so awful?" and etcetera.

the smell was coming from a man at one end of the car (we were at the other) who was obviously homeless. he had a bunch of stuff--his personal belongings--with him, possibly all he owned. he was wearing an ill-fitting shirt and stood there stoicly, not letting his facial expressions change.

but as the boys shouted (some of the large group ran into the next crowded car, while the others stayed to complain and shout about the smell), i could see his eyes. his eyes were obviously sad. he was not some shadow with a pile of cardboard boxes. he was a person. a person who has hopes and dreams and one day probably lived in a home like me too. and something went wrong. everyone has their own story. you can't forget this; everyone has their past, present and future.

on the walk in the train station, we entered at 16th street and walked down the long platform underground (as opposed to walking above ground in the freezing cold) and saw several different people sleeping, cardboard covering them or below them, and i thought about how truly lucky i am. i also thought about how silly the packages we carried in our hands as christmas gifts.

when we left the train, rather than feeling grateful to be exiting the smell, we both felt sad at how the feelings were hurt of that person. "kids are cruel," could be an easy excuse, but i was a kid, and i had more empathy than that. rather, instead, i thought about how people forget kindness and forgot that all people are humans and all humans are people.


Keith said...


I have enjoyed reading through your blog. I appreciate your honest reactions and your compassion for others(except the harassers).

fook said...

We should be grateful of what we had, u were right, somehow many peoples forget kindness, but i notice some people did not forget kindness, some help peoples, while others helping animals, wish u a happy merry christmas, wish everyone live happily and no one live under cardboard

V said...

This saddened me. I have befriended many homeless people over the years and they ARE people with feelings. They have also been some of the most generous and kind people I have ever known. I live in an area of Buffalo right now where there is an extraordinary number of homeless people wandering the streets; the street behind me houses a soup kitchen that I walk by on a regular basis. All of the people who stand outside of the soup kitchen and walk the streets make it a point to say hello; whereas at one of my jobs at a bookstore in a mall downtown, many of the white collar business people and their secretaries can't bother to look down their noses to say hello in response to my greetings, often actually looking the other way.

I never acted so heinously when I was a kid (or for that matter as an adult) that is NOT an excuse for these kids' behavior; I'm more inclined to blame their generation of parents and their child rearing habits, or lack of for that matter, because I've noticed this generations lack of respect in every city and town I've been in the last ten years or so (and Lordisa, do I feel old writing that). For those of you with kids reading this, think about how your actions have an effect on your kids and how you want them to grow up to behave. For that matter, all of us should think about how our behavior affects those around us every day of our lives.