She was a stranger on the subway

My experience helping a fellow subway passenger shows that even in a city full of strangers others in need don’t have to suffer all alone.

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Matthew 25:35–40

A few months after we moved to New York, I was on the L train on my way to school in the morning. I was standing near one of the doors when I realized something was happening near the next set of doors. I’m not sure if I heard something, or if I noticed everyone else looking, but I looked in that direction and realized that a girl, probably in middle school, was throwing up on the floor. No one moved. She was by herself (meaning that she wasn’t with a friend or a parent, though obviously she wasn’t actually all alone). I couldn’t believe that no one was doing anything at all. Some people looked at her, and others sort of tried to ignore her. But no one did or said anything. So I walked over and asked if I could do something for her. Of course I couldn’t really do much; what can you ever do for someone who’s throwing up? But one thing you can do is make sure they don’t feel all alone, which I’m sure she did at that moment. She asked if I had a tissue. I didn’t, so I asked everyone else around if they had one. Three or four people offered up tissues and napkins. Another lady offered her a cough drop to take the taste out of her mouth. I asked if she was going to school or going home, and she said she had to go to school because she had a test. For goodness’ sake, she did not need to go to school, and I told her that her teacher wouldn’t mind her staying home if she’s sick, but she said she had to go.

I have thought before that it would be kind of awful for my water to break on the subway when I’m “all alone,” meaning that everyone around me is a stranger. It is just beyond awkward to have some kind of sudden physical problem, especially a messy one, around strangers. I decided that if I ever see a woman’s water break in public, I will introduce myself and hang out with her until she gets where she needs to go or someone she knows arrives, because I know I wouldn’t want to be “all alone” in a situation like that. Very often, we can’t fix someone’s problems, but we can be there with them so they don’t have to deal with those problems alone.

Susan shared this story with our family in family home evening on 4 August 2014.

Featured image
Yusuke Toyoda/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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