This morning, I met a delicately-statured lady at the hotel restaurant named Jael. She was bustling around doing thrice as much as her male contemporaries, and we struck up a sweet conversation after I commented about her being a busy little bee. As we talked she said she feels like the world has lost touch with humanity and that we all need to pay more attention to each other, to smile, and connect through conversation. That we should work hard to serve others. My brief encounter with Jael was a warm reminder that many people are starving for the richly textured life society gladly dropped and left behind when it reached for a smaller, faster, smarter phone. She told me about her son, about how she learned to serve others from her roots in Asia, and how she appreciates the chance to talk to people who actually see her … a person. I saw her, and I liked her immediately, pretty sure that I could sense her heart open to receive any warm human outreach. Sadly, no one else paid her any attention. I’m so glad I did.
Following breakfast, I headed out to get a taxi for the train station to get on my way to Washington, D.C., only to learn that there weren’t any taxis nearby. German the bell hop personally drove me to the train station–a gracious gesture given my limited time to make my reservation. During the ride he told me about his ailing daughter, and about how the doctors ask for proof of insurance papers before addressing her by name or even looking twice at her, even after three years of treatments. “Healthcare isn’t about people,” he said. “It’s about money.” He wore the worry of a papa and the armor of a father in the fine creases drawn across his brow and at the corners of his eyes when he talked about her. He told me exactly how to get to the train tracks, and I hugged him, compelled to whisper “God bless,” as I left. He bowed his head slightly, and smiled gingerly. I couldn’t help but wonder if God himself asked me to do that very simple thing … to simply listen and allow German to serve and feel appreciated for taking care of another fellow human being. I knew I was safe in his care as a guest of the hotel, and as a friend in humanity.
On the platform of Track 2 at the train station, I saw a lone man around whom lots of people walked, ignoring his existence except their sidestepping his wheelchair. He wore a brown, delicately woven cap over his balding head, and I noticed that the top portion of his left ear was missing. He spoke with a thick Spanish accent, wore bifocals, and gladly told me about my train when I asked him if I was in the right place. He was on his way to New Haven to the VA hospital, and I learned that he was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1969 after serving in Vietnam. He told me all about the beach to the northeast of Stamford, and of his enjoying that part of the country for the last 45 years between bouts of travel all across the U.S. He called me “ma’am” when he spoke to me, and looked directly into my eyes with kind strength. Then, when the train people announced that my train would arrive on Track 3, I thanked him and headed toward the footbridge; he waved good-bye from the platform, wearing a broad, grateful smile, as I looked back in his direction from the top of the escalator. We became friends and bid a final farewell without ever knowing each other’s names. When I emerged on Platform 3 on the opposite side of the tracks, he was gone.