We are not so savvy with the subway. In fact, I have been on the nearest subway to me (in Philadelphia) exactly one time. I took my first New York City subway this week along with my husband and three kids. The kids loved it. I have to say I kind of loved it too. We did really well. Until the last ride. When we over shot our destination. By a lot.
We asked a stranger on the platform if we were getting on the right train. He confirmed and continued chatting with us and the kids. It was a welcome distraction for three exhausted children who had been riding the subway for a little too long. We all boarded the train together. The kind man continued to engage our children, talking about his daughters, shoes, healthy and not so healthy eating and how all Daddies like to take naps.
The conversation turned to bedtime and my six year old mentioned nightmares involving monsters. The man said, “Well, we call those Democrats, but that’s not politically correct. You should always vote Republican.” The subway car stopped. The man said we had a beautiful family. As he left the train, he repeated, “Remember to always vote Republican.”
My kids have no idea what a Republican is. They have no idea what a Democrat is. We don’t spend much time talking about political parties. We are raising global citizens. We are teaching our children to be kind. To all people. To the planet. To themselves. We are teaching them that they are responsible for the land that sustains them. They are accountable to their fellow human beings. They are capable of ending the suffering of others through their kindness.
The man on the subway taught them the very same lesson.
While he jokingly imparted voting advice on 8, 6 and 3 year old children, the message my children received from him was that people are kind. They are kind to strangers. They comfort with smiles. They take time to make you feel important. They teach you new things. Many of them are daddies who like to take naps.
This encounter stayed with me. This man was so nice. So likeable. Articulate. Charming. He likely has half a lifetime of experiences to share, but his parting message from a chance encounter (with totally liberal hippie strangers) was to vote Republican.
This got me thinking about what my parting message would be (if I were less socially awkward and actually struck up conversations with strangers on subways). I think it would be, “Remember to always be kind.”
Be kind to everyone (regardless of the label you have assigned to them or of the one they have assigned to themselves). Be kind to the planet. And to yourself.
And to strangers you meet on the subway.
You may ease someone’s suffering. You may change someone’s day. Or life. You may just make a long subway ride with three children a little more bearable.
But no matter what, you’ll be teaching kindness. And we could all use as much of that as we can get.
- A moment with an Aztec Fire Dancer
- Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor New Jersey