As I schlepped from the Jersey hinterlands into Brooklyn each morning, there were a few personal, humanizing encounters I looked forward to, that made my daily 2-hour commutes bearable:
The conductor on the 5:32 train, who always noticed when I sat somewhere other than by the four-seater, near the car’s only electrical outlet. He never failed to have a smile – even at that ung-dly hour, and even after thirty-five years on the job.
The barista, across from Penn Station, who always knew my order, always noticed what I was wearing, and always said good morning to me – and meant it.
The newsie who gave me my daily copy of AM New York. Rain. Snow. Wind. She was always there, always smiling, always hustling. If I missed a day, she mentioned it. How many people did she see each day in Herald Square? A few hundred thousand, easily.
They were all up, well before the crack of dark, hustling and moving and servicing thousands upon thousands of working stiffs.
They didn’t have to be pleasant. They didn’t have to be decent. They didn’t have to be kind.
Yet, they were. And as far as I know, they are, still.
I realize I’m not talking about saintly levels of the milk of human kindness here. In fact, it’s so mundane, as to be banal.
It made a difference. They noticed me. I noticed back.
And life among ten million souls suddenly wasn’t so anonymous.
When you think no one is watching… when you think it doesn’t matter how well you do what you do… when you really feel like “dialing it in” today… remember: someone is watching. Someone needs a bit of humanity, simply to make it through their day.
Someone needs to know that someone else notices. And cares.
Never underestimate the power of kindness. Or your own need for it.