By Ellen Andersen
Everything in New York City was completely opposite of what I was used to. I grew up in the desert in California, with few neighbors in a small town. Most everyone knew each other and were generally friendly, offering a smile if not a personal greeting. When I moved to New York City for graduate school, the difference in people’s lifestyles took me by surprise. I was 3,000 miles from home but still in the same country so I didn’t expect such a culture shock.
Suddenly, I lived in a place where no one spoke to anyone else, despite there being millions of other people there. I’d never seen life move so fast. People were literally running from one place to another, without so much as a quick hello. No one made eye contact or spoke to each other unless they had planned to meet up somewhere.
Public transportation took us wherever we needed to go and people were packed like sardines on the subway or buses, not saying a word to each other. Perhaps they were focused on their agenda for the day. Or it may have been a way to retreat from the stress of fast-paced life. Whatever the reason, it was a 180 degree turn from what had been normal for me.
One day in my second year, there was a large snowstorm there that dumped two feet of snow overnight. It had been predicted, but the intensity of this one surprised everyone—even the natives.
It was cold, but the sun was shining and reflecting beautifully off the snow. Most businesses had shut down except a few grocery stores. It seemed that life had come to a standstill, even in the middle of the city.
As I walked down the block, I saw an elderly lady walking with a cane and carrying a bag of groceries. She began to cross Broadway, but had a hard time with all the snow. A younger gentleman saw her, stopped what he was doing, and gently took her hand, helping her across. He made sure any cars that had braved the weather stopped and let the two of them get to the other side. He demonstrated compassion for someone he didn’t know who needed help. It wasn’t a particularly heroic thing to do, but in the middle of the snow it made a difference to her.
What have you done or witnessed that impacted someone for the better? Share it here so we might all benefit from the experience.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.