Recently, I was on the train with my nephew. There were the sleeping passengers, hipsters, commuters, and scroungers as to be expected on NYC public transit. A couple stops into our ride, another beggar joined our car. Both my nephew and I listened on as she recited her bit and made her way through the subway.
The begging lady explained that she was homeless and hungry, complicated more by the fact that she is diabetic. She didn’t ask for money, but instead, any food anybody had to spare. As I listened, I felt a twang of truth in her explanation and sincerity in her request for just something to keep her blood sugar up. I don’t always give to beggars since I don’t trust all of their plights and situations, and there are just so many found in a short subway ride. But since this one was asking for food, not money, and I was extra sympathetic to the diabetes angle, I looked to see what I could do. I happened to have some snacks stashed in my purse for when hunger strikes, so I pulled them out, got her attention, and handed them to her. The gratefulness in her eyes and gushing thanks were more than enough to justify my choice and feel confident in it.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one touched by this brief interaction. Immediately after I handed over the snacks, my nephew looked up at me and said, “That was really nice.” His expression was thoughtful and he stayed exceptionally quiet. I asked him if he heard what the beggar was saying, he recounted her request for food, and I explained what diabetes is. For the rest of the ride, he remained quiet (especially for a 6 year old) and every once in a while would mention something about giving away the food.
When I made my small donation, I didn’t even think of my nephew being there. After, I thought about being an example to him, how aware he is of everything we do around him, and how one small act of kindness can make an impression. One small act can be seen and passed on, maybe even making an impression on a person’s day or life. Next time you’re given a chance for kindness, think of the effect on you, the receiver, and all else surrounding who can pick up what’s going on.
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