I’ve become pretty familiar with the subway system in New York City. I no longer need my laminated, color-coded map to live permanently in my purse like a security blanket when I venture to places in the city. I’ve seen, heard, and experienced a smorgasbord of cultures, music, and customs in those underground, cement tunnels. Chilly in the winter and stagnantly suffocating in the summer, the subway system is truly a unique city below the city.
Once I saw an old man who had dragged his enormous heavy wooden harp two stories below ground to play on the platform for spare change. His talent astounded me and I thought, I would pay to hear this man on a stage. Other times, the sights are heart breaking. The homeless trying to keep warm in the winter or just looking for a dry spot to sit, hoping a passerby will feel compassion and drop in some change. There are the “regulars” – like the man when I switch from the 7 to the 6, who plays hymns on his Native American flute. And there are some with zero talent, just hoping to attract enough attention to make a few bucks. It usually works.
Yesterday I walked the long, tiled tunnel in a hurry. Walking for blocks underground in a space with zero air ventilation causes general crabbiness for the thousands that bustle through the stairs and walkways everyday, and I am no exception. I find myself annoyed as I get unwanted flyers shoved in my face. Someone once even told me when the world was going to end…July 2012 I think, so keep that in mind.
I saw ahead in my foresight, a man trying to hand out pamphlets but being rejected with every effort. His spirits stayed strong, and even heightened. I gradually guided myself away from him, looking down so as not to make eye contact. I learned very quickly that any hint of politeness is taken advantage of, but I still find myself struggling with the idea of passing without some form of acknowledgement. Don’t look, don’t look, I told myself. Ah! Too late. He got me. I grasped the paper that he offered to me and made eye contact with him. As I did, I saw a very sincere look of gratefulness and friendliness in his eyes, and in return I offered him a warm smile in spite of myself.
“Ah look at that,” He said in his thick, possibly Jamaican accent. “She accepts it with a smile! God bless you my sister. Thank you for your kindness!”
My smile lingered as I continued to walk without slowing down, but I looked back over my shoulder and saw his authentic, kind energy overflowing still as he thanked me again over the crowd, and then turned his attention to a new group of passengers.
I looked down at the pamphlet in my hand. Oh yes, I’ve seen this before. It was the very simple laid out plan of salvation. I shoved it in my purse making a mental note to pass it on to another stranger in the near future. Then I said a quick prayer for the subway preacher, that his message reaches someone today. He certainly reached me.
“...The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”