A Great Catch
Sometimes not getting smacked upside the head can be a wake-up call
I had being hanging on.
For weeks, I’d been going about my day, taking on the “To do’s,” the “Oh no’s,” and “Yea!” moments of life as usual. Life in New York City (and maybe most everywhere) seems to go easier with shock absorbers. Well not shock absorbers per se, but some kind of absorption/dispersal system for Life’s ins and outs.
But on that particular day when I entered the subway, my absorption system was a bit oversaturated.
There had just been one (or a bunch) of extra things on my mind. Loved ones were dealing with serious illnesses, and one was in the end stages of life. Heavy, my thoughts were probably written on my face as I stood there, preoccupied and feeling that helplessness we feel when there is no more to do or say that will change a painful situation.
I stood there on the train, lost in thought, taking in the moment of feeling overwhelmed and frankly, getting absorbed in myself. I looked down at the man seated in front of me, just an arm’s reach away. He, too, was in his own world, eyes closed, seeking a momentary refuge. There was a tall plank of wood he had rested against the nearby wall and, like the wood, he rested against the solid structure supporting him.
We all seemed in our own worlds in that car, mulling over our individual lives while we waited for the shuttle train to depart for Times Square. In the absence of the distraction of the train actually moving, we were in limbo, too.
A couple minutes passed and then the doors closed and the train lurched into motion. As it did, the plank of wood fell away from the wall and toward its guardian’s head. It all happened so fast. Without thinking, I reached out and grabbed the wood before he or anyone else was struck. By letting go of my mind, my hands could hold onto something much more important.
“Good catch! Quick reflexes!” I heard behind me, from a woman, who was, a moment ago, probably in her own world too.
The man gathered the wood and held it to him, with a look of thanks to me. We smiled, and had a moment of shared connection, an understanding.
Startled out of my trance, I was now feeling appreciation - for the moment, the man, the feeling of the wood in my hands, and the opportunity to change my own state of being. I realized I had barely acknowledged the woman who had borne witness and made me feel less alone. I feel certain that her voice had also roused others, some of whom probably saw what happened and some who hadn’t.
The shuttle ride lasts under two minutes. As the doors prepared to open in Times Square, I looked behind me for the source of the voice and I wished her a good day. Her face lit up immediately and we shared the happiness and lightness of the moment. It was a community moment, really. This tight-knit group of siloed city-dwellers shared seconds that brought us, for that moment, into each other’s world.
In catching that wood, I caught myself. From a spiral that’s all too easy to make and from a reality that’s all too easy to forget: when we choose to look up and look out from ourselves, we can see how we are all connected.