I’m in Washington DC visiting my daughter. Getting used to her new mode of transportation, the metro has been fascinating, interesting, and scary. The pace at which she and the throngs of people move are taxing on me. I’m not used to moving at lightening speed. My leg muscles and lungs are screaming, but I know if I don’t keep up, I’ll get stepped on, knocked about, left behind, or lost in the mob.
I’m amazed at the strapping young men who ignore the handicap and elderly as they board the crowded trains. Young men sit sprawled out on the seats unconcerned as people less fortunate with canes, crutches, aged or worse fight the crowd to board. Their arms often heavy laden with bags intertwined with devices meant to help them ambulate. Bent with age and disease, yet they do not complain. They s hold on to a pole or overhead bar and struggle to maintain their balance in the speeding train while young, strong, able-bodied, men sit by hog the seats and ignore them.
I had taken the last seat, sitting down beside a young just before the old man hobbled on board behind me. His head was covered in a makeshift white rag cap. He carried a dirty cloth bag draped over a cane aiding a leg so crippled he bent when he walked. He shifted his load and grabbing hold of the nearest bar two inches from a young couple moments before the train lurked into motion. I waited for one of the two young men to jump up and offer the old man, now teetering to maintain his balance, their seats. Surely, they would step forward and do the right thing. But, they didn’t.
I don’t know the old man’s age. Disease ages you, but I could have been those young men’s grandmother. I was tired, but I couldn’t sit there while that poor man struggled. I had two good legs.
I stood up. “Sir,” I pointed to the seat. “Please have a seat.” A look of relief washed over the old man’s face, and he hobbled to the seat.
“Thank you, Miss.” He smiled gratefully and plopped down, far more tired than I. The young man sitting beside him got off at the next stop, he asked me to sit down, and he told me how much he appreciated what I had done.
He shook his head in disappointment. “That young man should have offered his seat,” he said. He went on to explain he’d fixed dinner for his wife who was in the hospital and had gotten on the wrong train earlier. He was tired and flustered but hoped the doctor would let her come home tomorrow. We exited at the same stop, and I wished him and his wife well. I thought about the conversation, and life lesson’s those young men missed out on. I felt bad for them.
All of us are in a rat race these days. Everyone is caught up in either electronics or their own selfish agenda. But, I remember a time when parents taught consideration, compassion, empathy, respect and manners.
One day not too far in the future those young men will be old. They may be visited by ill health or accidents may leave them crippled or hobbled.We do not know what life holds in store for us. I hope for their sake when age or infirmity bends their bodies, someone will remember those lost values. But, from the looks of things, I witnessed I have my doubts.We reap what we sow.