Before moving here I’ve never had a commute to work longer than 10 or 15 minutes all of which I usually spent in my car alone, probably listening to some of my jams. Not only have I tripled (sometimes quadrupled) that amount of time, but I’ve also opened the door to a whole new world of commuting with the thousands if not millions in the city. I’ve ended up writing a lot about the subways or buses here mostly because something interesting is likely to happen there.

You never know what you’re going to get when you step into that crowded subway car day to day. Some days you have the one-man band complete with speakers, harmonica, and guitar. Other days you fear for your life because of a self proclaimed ex-drug addict turned Jesus preacher screaming, “Are you ready to die today? Because I’m ready, right now! I hope to see you all in heaven.” Then there are the more low-key days of street rappers or acoustic performers. Truth be told, I have heard some really fantastic talents on the subway and I’ve even heard that you can make around $400 to $600 a day performing throughout the subway. I haven’t checked those figures, but I definitely believe they could be true.

I’m not a complete public transportation veteran yet, but I already feel like I have a good amount of subway experiences, as well as the ploys of people looking for money. Theoretically I see why people do it too. First of all people of all income levels ride public transportation. Of course, there are people who take cabs, car services, or have their own cars that don’t rely on the subways, but looking from side to side on the car you are faced with clear income diversity. Second of all, you are deemed with an audience that cannot easily leave the scene. Yes, people certainly ignore beggars or performers, but they are aware of their presence more than they might be on the side of a street.

This afternoon a guy probably in his late 20s or early 30s stepped into my car. Both sides of his lips were pierced and he had baggy pants on as he was preparing to address the subway car. I had my ipod on, but could still hear his speech over my music. He started by talking about how we can’t judge people simply by the way we look and something along the lines of we need to be thankful for the gifts that we bring to society. He went on to talk about how he has been teaching at a local YMCA for a number of years and had helped countless amounts of students. He talked about students he had helped that were dealing drugs when they came into the program and are now in college playing sports on scholarships and continued on with a number of more stories. Then he hit his forte of his purpose by explaining that the YMCA didn’t have the funding for his program anymore and felt that it wasn’t important enough to continue funding and was looking for any support he could get to continue the program. 

My heart was heavy for his cause and I couldn’t give him the $2 I had on hand faster on my way off the subway. It’s New York and you can never be completely sure of what people’s agendas are, but I would like to believe his intentions were at best. To hear the passion in his voice for helping others and bettering their lives left me feeling very inspired. I am a complete believer that education and caring support can make a difference in others lives who are struggling in one way or another. 

I had a smile on my face the whole way home from the subway and felt that I needed to pass on my inspiration. I challenge you all to attempt having even a 1/10th of the passion that the man on the subway had today about helping someone other than yourself. It doesn’t have to be money. It can be something as small as a word of encouragement or a simple smile because it is the little things that really do add up to make a change in this world. I end this post inspired, and really hope that you all can consider just taking one small step each day in bettering someone else’s day.

Goodnight!

Anna Osgoodby