To Several Strangers I Saw on the New York City Subway, Thank You


Although I’ve been living in New York City for over 6 months now, I still get overwhelmed by it — the pushing and shoving on the subways, the constant vigilance, the dirt and grime and overcrowding. But every once in a while a moment pulls me out of the day-to-day chaos and forces me to appreciate one of the benefits of having so many people crammed together: the chance to see humans interacting constantly.

I’m occasionally blown away by the simple acts of kindness I witness.

Last week I was hurrying off the subway when it happened. People were elbowing their way up the stairs towards the exit when there seemed to be a traffic jam. I could see the blockage source was a woman who had a disability or injury. She was making her way up slowly and using a cane.

She was also trying to manage some shopping bags and a rolling cart that was laden with groceries. I was stuck several feet behind her, but I made a mental note to help her with her load as soon as I was near enough. But, because of the beautiful and generous world we live in, I didn’t get the chance.

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As I watched, about five people simultaneously came to her aid. One man in an expensive-looking business suit offered his arm, a woman and her young daughter took the bags and several other onlookers took charge of her cart, wrestling it to the top of the stairs for her. When the woman was back above ground with all her belongings, the helpers dispersed immediately. They went their separate ways without so much as a nod to one another.

This was not one of those ostentatious moments of generosity where the smug do-gooder greedily accepts thanks and admiration from the person they’ve helped. This was just New York City transit business-as-usual. In fact, many of them barely even broke their stride to help.

I’ve witnessed this kind of casual kindness before, and it’s always at the moment when I need it most. It’s just a little reminder that beneath all the grime and chaos of this metropolis, there is a collective heart of gold.

I’m so thankful that I get to make my living writing about these small but powerful acts of kindness. They make the world a brighter and cozier place to live in. And since The Mighty is giving thanks all month long this November, I want to thank those people and everyone else in the world who helps their fellow man without thinking twice. And you, for finding joy in these moments, reading about them and sharing them with people you care about.

The Mighty is celebrating the people we don’t thank enough. If you’d like to participate, please submit a thank you note along with a photo and 1-2 sentence bio to [email protected]

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