Friday, January 9, 2009

A Moment of Empathy in Hoboken

I walked to my Dr.'s appointment today in Hoboken. I took the light rail, which is such a cool form of transportation. It feels like Europe and the views if you take it to Bayonne or over here to Paulus Hook are astounding. The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Lower Manhattan, etc. It is beautiful. If you haven't taken it you should. Anyway. I digress. I went to my Dr. appointment and on the way back to the light rail I stopped at Dunkin Donuts.

As I was walking there I noticed a familiar face collecting change outside the Dunkin Donuts. She is a rough character, but deadpan honest if you speak to her. She reminds me (for some reason) of Ellen Page in Juno. But, she is weary, you can tell, standing in the freezing cold, probably 10 degrees with the wind chill and she is shabbily dressed. She looks exactly like what she is -homeless. Anyway, I give her the change in my pocket, say hello and walk in to Dunkin Donuts. I change my mind and thought I don't want this dreadful coffee (though I prefer it over Starbucks) so I washed my mug and left. No more coffee today.

As I departed I noticed she was still collecting outside the Dunkin Donuts and then I witnessed a moment in human interaction that I thought worth writing about. I noticed a woman, probably a stay at home mom, a yuppie, the privileged in Hoboken that altered this community forever. She left just before me out of Dunkin Donuts, but she was staring at her bagel and she stopped in front of me and turned back, clearly pensive and about to make a move. Her daughter in the baby carriage about two years old, covered by a plastic wrap probably warmer than the young homeless woman has been all day. She turned as I watched and she approached the young woman and said "do you want the other half of this bagel? I just bought it, but I know I won't finish it." The young woman stared at her for a moment in pause and said, "yes." Nothing else, but her eyes said it all, and then "thank you." And the woman turned to leave and said "good luck." You could tell the young woman hadn't felt that kindness in a while.

Wow, I thought, the human feeling of empathy. That is what is missing. A human soul on the street, begging for the necessities of life and what that is like. It is what is missing from the discussions in Gaza. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Mumbai and China. Our ability to see what it is like to live in someone else's shoes. If we ever lose this for good, we lose everything.

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