2015 still isn't over.
Those were the words running through my mind as I boarded the 1 Train and headed downtown at 7:15 this morning. The train was not very crowded and everyone seated around me looked as I felt – tired, wanting to be anywhere else, and waiting for this year to end.
At 18th Street, I spotted an older woman boarding the train. As we pulled out of the station, she began reciting the rehearsed words that subway panhandlers often use. She was sorry to bother everyone, just lost her job, was living in a shelter, just needed some help to get through the day, etc., etc.
My first reaction was to join those about me in looking down at our laps, fumbling with personal effects, and basically hoping she would just leave us all alone. The woman finished her plea and then stood silently near the doors, waiting to see if anyone would respond. At first no one did, but then just across the way I noticed a boy, about eight years old, sitting with his mother.
I watched as he took out his wallet.
A renowned mathematician once told me that he envied my job more than any other. At the time I could not believe his words, coming from someone likely to be awarded the Field's Medal in his lifetime. When I asked for explanation he simply said: You work with children. Every day you get to wake up, go to your job, and meet human beings while they are still at their very best.
The young man took the small amount of change from his wallet, which looked to be about 60 cents or so, and as the woman graciously thanked him, he wished her a happy New Year. The mood change in the car was palpable and those nearest the two of them now smiled, reached into their own pockets, and for 60 cents we undoubtedly all had a much better day than the one to which we had set out.
When I got on the subway this morning, I was not being my very best. While I was internally grumbling about the boss having to go in over vacation, stressing over business operations, worrying about our new construction, and feeling generally overwhelmed by my own problems, I forgot to look around. I forgot to look for new opportunities to be a good human being. I didn't necessarily have to give money to a panhandler, but I certainly could have smiled. If I hadn't stopped counting down the minutes to 2016 for just that one brief moment, I could have easily missed the lesson that young man was there to teach.
What a loss that would have been.
So tomorrow, I will wake up and at 7:15 and I will get on the 1 Train. I will head downtown and I will pay attention. I will look for all of the opportunities to be my very best today, because as I learned from an eight-year-old this morning...
2015 still isn't over.