Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Lesson in Training

This afternoon, I scored a seat on the B Train en route to an overdue chiropractor appointment in Columbus Circle.

I had forgotten my Ipod and consequently was subjected to my own personal infomercial by a burly man selling bootleg DVDs. It wasn't until he glanced down at my ring finger and asked me if I was happily married did I realize that perhaps it wasn't just a $3.00 commission that he was interested in pursuing.

The burly man exited the train at 7th Avenue, and as the subway doors began to close, a young man managed to hold the door open long enough to slip inside. The man was in his mid-twenties, with sandy brown hair, a camping backpack and had his arm in a sling.

He stood at the front of the subway car, and unlike those before him, he did not begin his plea with, "Ladies and gentlemen- I am homeless and pregnant." Rather, he simply said, "I was laid off." Everyone raised their eyes to take a glimpse at the broken man. Before I could look away he continued, "God, this is so embarrassing and I am sorry to bother you. I lost my job a few months ago, and then I lost my apartment and broke my arm. I don't have insurance and I need help."

I felt myself staring at the man and wanted to stand up and scream, "me too!" But then I remembered that I wasn't on a sit-com. It had been two months since I was laid off from my full time event planning position at a financial PR firm in the city. I began to wonder at what point I would resort to begging on the train.

There was something very honest about the man. But, who knows if he was telling the truth or not. In that moment- I didn't care. I didn't bother to have the internal dialogue that I typically have with myself each time someone enters the train asking for money. "He doesn't look homeless. Yeah, food- more like drugs. Are those new sneakers? I saw him yesterday and he had a different jacket and story!"

Instead, I pulled out the last $4.00 dollars that I had in my wallet and handed it to the man. This time, there was no judgement. I didn't care how he chose to spend the money. All that I knew was that I still had a roof over my head and active insurance. Things aren't so bad. Yet.

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