Warning: The Following is a True Story

A few days ago, at 7:00 AM I went into the station for the 7 train in Woodside, Queens. It’s a trip I often take because street traffic in New York has become intolerable.

I often prefer, therefore, to take the commuter line, the Long Island Rail Road instead of driving. That way, I get to the office relaxed and prepared for the day, having the opportunity to read the newspapers and answer emails that have accumulated since the night before.

On that particular day, I took the fare card out of my pocket at the entrance to this busy station. I swiped it once – nothing. I did it a second time, the same. I tried a third time, hurriedly – and again the same result.

Meanwhile, behind me a line of people was waiting to get into the station. How curious, I was thinking. I refilled it yesterday. Why doesn’t it work?

The line behind me grew. Before I could get out of the way to figure out why my card was not working – so I would not bother the others – something unprecedented happened to me.

Suddenly, a gentleman approached the turnstile I was trying to navigate, he swiped his own card, immediately releasing the bars and allowing me to enter the station. The man told me simply, “pass.”

I could not believe what I had just experienced. Never before did this happen to me. “Thank you very much,” I replied, hurriedly. “My card has money. It just does not work for some reason.” “Not a problem,” he answered me politely. “Please use it.”

The line continued to grow. Some began to feel resentment as I stood there talking to him. I thought about waiting in the station to thank him and give him the money.

But he did not enter the station. He was walking in the opposite direction, towards the street. “Please,” I cried, “come and let me give you the money.” “No worries. It’s okay,” he answered me in a polite way. I just stood there, open-mouthed.

This man was totally unknown to me. He was well-dressed, perhaps Indian or Pakistani in origin. I had the impression – though it may have been only my imagination – that he went to the station deliberately, maybe he does it a lot of mornings, to help anyone who could not pay for their train ticket.

Why? Perhaps, I supposed, there was a time when he himself did not have the money to take the train and was helped by a stranger, and now that he has money, he wants to pay-forward the good people who had helped him. I am just guessing.

Curious creature, the human being.

Just when you gain the impression that we are the most inhumane creatures, especially in New York, the toughest city on Earth, suddenly from nowhere people appear who make the most unlikely gestures of kindness and humanity.

Let us not be disappointed, therefore, about human nature. Let us not draw general conclusions.

Of course, one good example is not enough. But it’s not just one. There has to be many.

It just happened to me.

Let us bear in mind that good as well as evil, kindness as well as rudeness, are imitated by other people. Our actions can drive many others to either the positive or the negative side of life.

It is up to each of us to contribute to a better and more polite world.


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