A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
My eyes scanned for a seat. The train wasn’t packed but there was no available one in sight either. Oh geez…
I wasn’t planning to stand the whole 45 minutes that day. It was alright in some days, but not THAT day. I just came from the gym, and it was the early stage of my fitness journey, and the exercises given by the PT were really, really killing me. My arms, back, legs were perenially sore. I was a walking DOMS (sorry,google it). In fact, I discovered that coming down the stairs was much more difficult than going up! To tell you the truth, I was gravely considering buying an escalator… or if it’s too expensive, a rope with a wooden box attached to take me up and down our second floor would do. Yes it was that serious.
Oh, there’s one. There was a bag in it though, but we expect passengers to let people with tickets they paid for to sit, not bags. As the train started to move, I inched my way towards the seat, stood by it, waited to be noticed by the old lady sitting there. She was, I guess, in her 80’s. Thin, fragile-looking, and alone. She didn’t see me, or rather avoided seeing me, but I was determined. I’d even do cartwheels or sing a dirge if necessary. But first, my weapon number one…
And so with a smile, I gently asked her, “Excuse me, may I sit next to you?”
What came next startled the soreness out of me. She turned her head, snapped at me, her face disheveled (yeah no exaggeration here) with the ugliest frown I’ve ever seen in my whole entire meaningful and adventurous existence. And as she roughly grabbed her bag, she hissed and growled… I froze…
Is this a ruse from the Funniest Videos, and I am being secretly camcorded here so viewers could laugh their lungs out while they watch my reactions???
But it was for real… She was angry! Or furious, I may say. Her eyes went from squinting to rolling, her mouth as if ready to open wide and bite me, reminding me of our neighbor’s annoying dog who chased passers-by when I was little.
As she placed her bag onto her lap, she moved like a kid throwing a tantrum. She irritatingly looked away – into the glassed window, propping up an invisible sign, “Don’t talk to me, Asian!”
For some reason, I didn’t scram for the standing area, but instead, sat calmly next to her… chuckling inside. Yes, weird but I found the whole thing funny. Was it the endorphins, I don’t know. But it was hilarious from my standpoint.
After a minute or two, I gently touched her hand and said,
“I’m so sorry, I just needed to sit down, standing up in a train makes me dizzy.”
(I reckoned she wouldn’t understand DOMS, fitness program, or anything like that. So that was the easiest explanation, which was also true.)
I expected—and pictured– more growling this time, with showers of saliva onto my face, just like when a lion or a rhino growls in cartoon movies onto the faces of their tiny, scared preys, usually raccoons, rabbits, or a mouse. But you wouldn’t believe what happened next… because neither did I.
She calmly turned to me, with a soft, sweet smile on her face, as if I just cast seven demons out of her in the Name of Jesus, and went on to apologize for her crankiness that day (no grandma, you were more than that, don’t you remember?)
She said she was travelling alone that day. How brave is that, I said. She was nearly 90. I wouldn’t allow my mother or grandmother to go out of the house unaccompanied at that age! She said it was alright, her trip was around two hours, and she was going home where she also lives alone. With a tinge of sadness, she said it’s ok, she’s used to it. And as if to convince herself some more that she’s alright, she went on talking about her friends who are far older, also living alone. She chatted on, saying she visits them and reminds them to make sure they lock-up during the night before going to bed, snickered as she mentioned one of them who always hated the reminders, “Oh shut up, I have that all in here! (pointing to her forehead).” She said some of these oldies go to parties to meet someone special… and marry each other. LOL. How interesting…
I tried to converse in a way that she wouldn’t feel so bad about her situation, because truth was, it really saddened me. I opted not to ask about her children or relatives… we have limited time I didn’t want our chitchat to uncover unpleasant memories for her.
Then the topic shifted to myself… She asked if I smoke. I said no. Do I drink? No. Party on weekends? Errr, no … (God, I don’t have a life! LOL. Of course I am kidding.) I told her that I have friends and we go out frequently, but not like the way she understands what partying is. She stared at me in disbelief. She exclaimed, “What kind of a young lady are you??? You don’t smoke, party, look for boyfriends, or drink???”
She went on to say that all the youngsters do that now, and that I was a rarity, and that my parents are fortunate… (she thought I was a young student. LOL. Didn’t correct cuz I like the mistake.)
We alighted at the same station. I walked with her as far as I could, thanked her for the conversation… and then we waved goodbye.
That day, I realized where I am. It gave me a window to the kind of society I am in…
I remember a saying from some book years ago:
“Hurt people hurt people.”
Bear in mind today that there are more damaged people walking on this earth than you and I realize.
They hurt others simply because that’s all they can give.
When you know how to be gentle… to be kind… to give inspite of your struggles with your weakness as human… be thankful.
You can only give what you received. It means somewhere… in your difficult life, YOU FOUND LOVE.
To have no spillage of bitterness or deep-seated anger when accidentally jarred by unexpected irritations is a great blessing.
To have no bitterness nor hatred… Be thankful. You found love.
When you freely forgive because you know how it is to be forgiven— countless times… Be thankful. You found love.
When all you get is the chicken neck at the dinner table, with your big, chaotic, and happy family… Be thankful. You found love.
When you have crazy people you can call brothers or sisters — only from another parents… Be thankful. You found love.
When you have someone to say goodnight… to pray for… to argue with… to listen to… to buy gifts for at Christmastime and birthdays…
When you find yourself meeting a need… Be thankful.
Because all of these mean you’re sharing life with others. YOU FOUND LOVE.
Be grateful. Sometimes, you just don’t realize how favoured you are.