Sunday, September 22, 2013

My favorite and best encounter with a stranger

Sometimes, something so simple, during a few minutes of our day, can be truly life changing.

It was 2008 and I had been in New York for just a few months. I was on the 7 train, going between Times Square and Grand Central. I was sitting on the train, and a family of four got on the train. Parents, a son and a daughter. The moment they walked on, it was evident that the daughter was physically handicapped. I immediately stood up to offer my seat, but so did the man next to me, who was closer in proximity to the family, so the daughter sat in his seat. I motioned to the mother if she wanted my seat, but she kindly waved toward me “no no I’m fine.” So I sat back down. The mother stood with her husband and son. I had my headphones on, but could see the girl looking up at me from her seat next to me. She couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9. I smiled while listening to my headphones, knowing she was looking at me.

Then I saw her say something, but couldn’t hear it, so I took my headphones off, kindly smiled and brought my head down closer to her eye level, and said smiling “Hmmm what did you say?” And she said, “Are you going?” I could tell from her speech that she was also mentally handicapped. I had no idea what she was asking or saying, so I just said “Yes I am going. Are you going?”, continually smiling at her. She became happy and shifted in her seat excitedly. “Yes I am going.” We sat smiling for a moment, and I asked her “Are you visiting New York – where are you from?” And she smilingly looked toward her mother, who mouthed “Louisiana.” And the girl repeated it back to me happily. I said “Ohhh that’s nice to visit New York on vacation.” We sat in silence for another 30 seconds, I kept my headphones off and kept smiling at her, and as the train pulled into the station where I was getting off, I said “Well this is my stop so I need to go, but you enjoy New York” and I just lightly tapped the baseball cap she was wearing, and she happily smiled and waved as I got up to leave. As I left the train, her mother touched my shoulder and said, “God bless you.” And I immediately said “oh no no” and exited the train.

I thought to myself what this family, especially the mother must have faced in her life, having a handicapped daughter, and how people must have talked to her, treated her, as well as the mother, to a point where just a little kindness and smile from a stranger in New York made her so thankful and happy to bless me. I felt truly blessed, to have both met that girl and her mother, and just thankful for all that I had in my life, and just said a prayer for her and her family. God bless them.