There comes a time in everyone’s life when they realize they are not so young anymore. It may be the extra minute it takes to straighten up from a sitting position, the shortness of breath after walking the stairs, or even a look in the mirror and not recognizing the person looking back.
My moment of recognition came several years ago on a crowded LIRR train. There seemed to be no vacant seats when I got on, and as I glanced around the car to be certain I hadn’t missed one, a young man got up and said “why don’t you sit down?” I was taken aback. Did I look so old and fragile? Apparently, to him, I did. I graciously thanked him and sat. I watched him get off several stops later.
I took this to be an isolated incident. Perhaps I reminded him of his grandmother or a former teacher that he liked.
However, recently this has become a regular occurrence. Whether I’m riding a city bus, the subway or the LIRR, somebody usually offers me a seat. And it’s all types of folks who do this: men and women, very young to middle aged, wearing three-piece suits or overalls. They have been of all races and ethnicities. Though they looked through different eyes, they all saw the same thing — a woman of a certain age with some gray hair and some wrinkles. They saw someone they may have known or someone they might become. They were polite, gracious and respectful. I am truly moved by such acts of kindness and hope that I honor their actions by paying it forward.
While I still sometimes find these gestures disconcerting, I am comforted by the knowledge that most people are innately good. We just have to notice.