People give up their seat on the subway all the time. Whether it’s because they feel an obligation to someone older or pregnant, because they want to do something nice for a stranger, or simply because their stop is coming up, people are constantly giving up their spot to another person. It happens often enough that it’s something of a routine, something done without a minimum of conversation or interaction. It’s rote, the kind of thing you don’t even notice when another does, let alone something that makes you notice someone even if you're directly involved. But this time was different.
It was a young man with a bicycle, offering his seat to a young boy unaccompanied on the train. The two people didn’t know each other, and to my knowledge had never seen each other before that moment. It would have been so much more intuitive for them to exchange places with as little conversation as possible. But instead, they talked for a bit. The young boy asked about the bicycle, the young man asked about his life, they chatted aimlessly. The whole interaction had the flavor of a young boy asking someone older, someone who looked like him, for mentorship.
On its own, none of these things would have ground-shaking. But it was the connection forged between the two of them, a completely unnecessary and unexpected connection, that surprised me. It was a moment in which a simple interaction, something that is so usually rote, undertaken with absolutely no connection made or even searched for, became something more. It was a moment in which two people formed a bond when one was completely unexpected and unnecessary.
As I got off the subway to head home, the image of them simply talking contentedly stayed with me. The connection they formed so easily, in a place and during an interaction that usually discourages such things, was heartening; it was impossible not to be drawn in to that earnest, fleeting moment. It was a moment in which those two people, both the boy searching for something from this older figure and the older figure happily providing it to a boy who might have spurred some memory of himself, were as real to me as I was. It was a moment in which I truly wish I’d had a camera.
With excitement and optimism,