Monday, June 23, 2014

Babies On A Train





What do we do when we ride the subway? Above all else, we avert our gaze. We look out a window, if possible, or maybe we stare at the floor, at our shoes, at other people's shoes. We read the paper. If we don't have a paper, we read the same overhead advertisement six or seven times. If a phone is part of our accoutrement, we stare intently at whatever is on the screen. We shy away from contact with strangers, always.

I'm on the Red Line the other day. A man gets on the train and he has a baby with him. The kid is about a year old and overwhelmingly cute; a boy (I think) with red hair, big blue eyes and a huge never-ending smile. Across the aisle was a man, doing his part as a passenger by not making eye contact. He looked up and saw the kid. And the kid saw him. The kid smiled wide. The man smiled back and gave the kid a little wave. The kid laughed and waved back. The man laughed and returned that wave. And so on, for two stops.

A woman got on. She sat near the waving man. The kid looked at her. She looked at the kid. The kid waved. She waved and smiled. The kid laughed and waved back. Then the kid looked at the man again, waved again. The man smiled and waved back. Everyone else who saw this action smiled.

The father and child were white. The waving man and woman were black.

Later on, I was at the Chinatown stop on the Orange Line. A man entered the platform area with his son. The son was perhaps two, in a stroller. As the kid was wheeled down the platform, he happily informed every person he passed – and I quote - “I ride train!” And everyone responded with a smile, a little laugh, a wave, or even by saying something; “You tell 'em, kid!” or “Good for you!” or “Me, too!”

The man and his child were Asian. The responders were of all colors and ethnicities.

At Community College, a woman got on with a young girl. The girl was playing with a used Charlie Ticket (for some reason, kids love those things.) It slipped out of her hand and fell to the floor. The old gentleman next to her picked it up and handed it back with a smile. She said, “Thank you!” in a cheerful voice. As the ride continued, this happened another four or five times. It fell this way and that, with a different person picking it up each time (I was one of them.) Each time, the kid smiled and said a bright “Thanks!” to her helper. The helpers smiled back, and kept smiling for a little while after.

The woman and child were black. The ticket picker-uppers were white, maybe a couple also Hispanic.

What does it take to get people to acknowledge their fellow riders on the T, while also providing for an enjoyable ride? Apparently, a smiling, laughing, good-natured kid. And, in every instance mentioned, race became a total non-factor in human relations.

Nice, huh? It appears we can all get along just fine, if we're willing to act like children.

[photo from http://www.asergeev.com/pictures/k/Red_line.htm]

19 comments:

Buck said...

Forgive me, but... "out of the mouths of babes."

Life lesson.

Shammickite said...

I've experienced exactly the same thing.... just a couple of weeks ago when Callum and I were on the bus going downtown to the Jay's game, he was drawing pictures and showing them to everyone on the bus.... and all those people who normally sit and stare out of the window were drawn into Callum's world. It was a lot of fun.... for everyone!

Michelle H. said...

It also falls on the parent allowing the child to be open and interact with others. I took The Overlord to the movie theater were there was a woman with her (4?)yo and baby. Another family with two boys (maybe between 5 and 8) came in. The boys made comments about "who would take a baby to a movie" attitude.

Parents influence their children to be open... or not to be friendly.

messymimi said...

Exactly. A person once told me that races shouldn't intermarry because of how the kids are treated, and i shot back that if people would quit treating them that way, the problem would be solved. He couldn't see it.

Should Fish More said...

Sounds like a great experience, must have been nice.

Were that it were typical, of the experience that people experience, the majority of the time. People of mixed race, or not.

It's a good goal.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

Eye contact and a smile will unlock a lot of doors.

Marja said...

Don't you just love kids. nice story.

Brighton Pensioner said...

If only we could all be more child-like instead of childish!

Practical Parsimony said...

When people stand in line at places like Walmart, they try to pretend they are the only ones in line. But, the babies and little kids in carts like to interact with others. The only time I resent these cuties wanting to smile and talk is when I am in a restaurant and the child is allowed to interrupt my dinner and conversation. Otherwise, babies anywhere are okay.

I said "bye bye" and waved to a child as I finally got past people. We had been smiling. He said "bye bye" and waved. His parents squealed and said that was the first time he had ever said that. It was sort of a thrill for me, too.

I live in the South in a small town, so there are no buses or trains or subways to ride. Well, there are none in the big cities, either.

Craig said...

Babies are like the magic key to humanity.

And my sons have found them to be total chick-magnets (any 17-yr-old boy with a 2-yr-old sib knows what I'm talkin' about). . .

sandyland said...

purity of children

Jeni said...

When my children were little, my girls were a bit on the shy side but my son -quite the social butterfly then and, come to think of it, he is still like that! The boy would speak to anyone he encountered which used to worry his Dad and I somewhat because he also would have easily gone off with anyone too. But, I never discouraged his associations with others in public (as long as I had his hand in mine or he was semi-contained.) The girls did acquire a bit more social skills though and thankfully, all three of them have no problems today with diversity issues as they see, meet and greet openly and my girls have also taught their children to do the same.

lime said...

and the children shall lead....

excellent reminder. thanks!

OldAFSarge said...

And He said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. -Matthew 18:3

Karen said...

Sweet story and yes, we should all start acting more like children.

Lisa Johnson said...

I've seen it happen as well. It's a beautiful thing.

olive oyle said...

Because innocence is pure and non judgmental full of love and happiness and willing to share. "Through the eyes of babes" we reclaim our innocence if only for a minute. I love being in their presence.

Daryl said...

the same thing happens here in nyc EXCEPT at rush hour when someone gets on an already sardine-like packed subway car with a stroller or full sized baby carriage ….

and i see 'my' friend anonymous is here spreading his/her energy balancing ….

Hilary said...

You noticed what I've observed many times through the years. The beauty of innocence. Lovely post, Jim. And ditto for your Father's Day story in the Herald.