I take public transportation when visiting cities whenever possible. Some people wonder why I do that. One reason I do is because it connects me to the place I’m visiting. A good example of this is when I arrived at O’Hare a few weeks ago and took the train into the city.
At the second train stop, a young man wearing a backpack go on the train. He sat across from me, and I couldn’t help but notice his leg shaking up and down forcefully. He began speaking out loud, so everyone could here, and asked people to please listen, that he needed help. His dad was being an asshole and kicked him out and he had nowhere to go. He’d been sleeping on the L for the past couple nights, scrounging where he could. He said he was having a really hard time, but he’s not a bad person, and hadn’t done anything wrong. He was trying to get enough money for bus fare to get to his cousin’s place in New York state. He needed $18.50, and had collected $6 already. Still talking loud so everyone could here him, he started to explain each person that gave him some money to get him to the $6 he had already. He was having such a hard time. And he seemed like such a good guy. He then said he just really needed some help, and then mentioned something about no one listening to him in frustration. When he was done talking, he hung his head down and continued shaking his leg, with extreme up-down oscillations. I know that people’s legs sometimes shake (including mine). I have just never seen it this obvious and strong.
I couldn’t ignore such an honest plea from a guy sitting so close. I found some change in my backpack and some singles in my pocket and gave it to him. He looked at me and said thank you very sincerely. He then hung his head back down and leg still shaking. I started to breathe with him, to support him further. I empathized strongly with him, just by listening and breathing.
I asked him how much more he needed to get the bus ticket, he counted the money I gave him and said $10. I knew I had a $10 bill in my pocket, so I gave it to him. He was the really grateful. Then, we started talking. We talked a little bit about him getting to his cousin’s, but mostly he asked questions about my life, which I readily answered. I found an apple in my bag, and gave that to him too – which he quickly devoured, commenting that he hasn’t had much food lately. By the time the stop came around that would get him to the bus station, he was so much more relaxed, he was breathing easier and his leg had completely stopped shaking.
Something about connecting with this guy and helping him out made a difference to me and connected me to where I’m visiting in a way that couldn’t happen in a taxi. And the train fare plus the money I gave this guy still cost less than half of a cab fare into the city.