Monday, October 19, 2009

grace and goodwill

Yesterday, as Chris and I were heading home from church, we saw an elderly man sitting at the top of a staircase leading into the subway. A young woman leaned into the man and within moments had her arm linked around his and was leading him down the stairs. Another young woman ran to meet them, taking the man's cane and cup of coffee so he could grab onto the rail as the group took their precarious journey downward.

Needless to say, this all slowed the usual flow of comings and goings to a near-halt. But the crowd was remarkably patient. Sure there were a few that jumped to other side of the staircase, so they could hurry to the platform, but most took their time and allowed the man and his companions to inch their way down, step by step. I suppose they realized that an extra five minutes would unlikely cause a serious disruption to their Sunday agenda.

All except for one woman and her two young children. Who, once on the platform, pushed their way forward past Chris (who was now holding the cup of coffee as the elderly man looked for a post on which to lean) and past the others who were still waiting until the man was safe and settled. And it just struck me, that here was this woman who was given an opportunity to teach her children about patience and compassion but instead was too fraught and too hurried to notice such a window. Or as Chris said, "It's hard to teach others patience and compassion when you have little of either yourself."

One other thing that has continued to trouble me about the experience: the man had a hospital bracelet around one wrist. And I am once again reminded of how little our current system provides. Clearly this man was not in a position to navigate the city and yet he appears to have been dismissed from the hospital with what seems to be little support, guidance, or after-care.

So here's my prayer for the day: given that we must depend on the grace and goodwill of our neighbors each and every time the system fails, may the majority of our neighbors be filled with such grace and goodwill.

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