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Kindness of Strangers




I have been helped so many times in my life by strangers. They didn’t know me, they just saw me in a moment in my life where I needed help. One such story follows:

I was new to living in Brooklyn, never had lived in a city as large or populated as this. I had a basement apartment and took the subway to get places.

Riding the subway in New York City and its burroughs is confusing even for those who’ve lived their whole life there. Not only down in the tunnels but on the surface. You have to know something about the topography in order to get on the subway car headed in the correct direction. And when you emerge from the station you have to know which way to walk to reach your destination. Residents take one or two subway lines all of their lives, shopping at stores clustered around their particular subway stations.

It was the middle of winter and this particular time I got on the wrong subway line which was also headed in the wrong direction. I usually read during my ride so after a period of time I looked up to see if I was close to my stop. I wasn’t. And it took me a few seconds to realize I didn’t recognize the upcoming station names.

I panicked. I said out loud, (another thing about New York subway riders, they don’t talk-if they do it’s a whisper. In most cars you can hear a pin drop.) “Oh no, I don’t know where I am. I got on the wrong car”. I got up to wait to leave when the car stopped at the next station and exited when the car stopped.

I asked those waiting for their subway car if they knew how I could get back to 25th Street or the D, N, or R line. Someone said that this was the D line but that this was the last train for the night on D and that I needed to get back to the R line.

I was so lost, so alone, and now frightened because the station was emptying out. A man approached, and seriously, I thought I was going to get mugged or raped. He stopped a short distance away from me, both looking at each other. He spoke halting English with an Eastern European accent and said, “You will have to take the bus to get to that station. I will show you.” He waved for me to follow him. I had to make a split-second decision. I followed him.

He walked and began a conversation. We both struggled a bit to understand each other but we talked and walked. He told me it was about 10 blocks. We walked, me following him.

When we got to the bus stop, he pointed to the stop across the street and said, ”Go that way”. He crossed the street with me and waited with me. He waved away 2 buses before the right one stopped and told me to get on this one. I did. Paid the fare. Sat down and after several miles recognized my neighborhood and got off the bus.

I never saw him again.

This guy was the divine working in him, for me. He went out of his way to help someone who was clearly in need without a second’s thought.

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