It’s about a million degrees in New York City right now. The cloud cover will eventually lead to rain–and lots of it–but not before it weighs us down and makes the air heavy and hard to breathe.
Walking down the sidewalk today, I thought, “God, this is miserable! Heat, humidity, cranky pedestrians…what could be worse?” Then I descended the stairs into the subway and my question was answered. The only thing worse than navigating crowded, filthy New York sidewalks in oppressive heat is navigating crowded, filthy New York subway platforms in oppressive heat.
The A train arrived, I found a seat in an air-conditioned car and I had just begun losing myself in my magazine, when…”Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention! I am not here raising money for a basketball team or a football team, I am here to put some money in my pocket, stay off the streets, and do somethin’ positive! I have Peanut M&Ms for only a dollar!”
This enterprising teen, for any readers who don’t live in NYC, was giving the exact same spiel that every other enterprising teen uses when hawking their (most likely) stolen candy on the subway. And he was loud. And I was tired. And I was trying to read. And I really didn’t want to engage with the teen, or my fellow passengers.
His sales pitch ended; I inwardly rolled my eyes and focused on my magazine. Just a few minutes later, the teen began again, “Ladies and Gentlemen”–I felt irritation start to rise up inside me–“this gentleman here just bought eight packs of M&Ms and told me to give them away for free! He’s lookin’ out for the folks that ain’t got the dollar! Who wants some Peanut M&Ms?”
I looked up and the irritation that had surged just a moment prior simply dissolved. Riders who were just as hot, sweaty and fed up as I, reached out their hands and were given a sweet treat from a stranger to make their ride easier. The teen, for his part, was happy to have made a sale and become the Good Humor Man, in one fell swoop. Grace on the A train.
I had been so buried in my magazine, trying to block out my surroundings, that I never did see who had been the M&M benefactor of the 4:30 A train to Brooklyn. Whoever he was, he reminded me that I–we–always have the choice to participate generously in the present moment. In so doing, we can bring sweetness to those around us.
God, I love New York.