Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Small Things Matter to the Human Spirit

The TV screens in the subway station update me on how occupy protesters are being evicted and arrested, about the slipping Canadian dollar and the negative global economic forecasts for the future. I think to myself: "in another week, you too will be unemployed."

I pick up the Metro paper and read about how Canada is slipping behind other countries in terms of education. Countries like India are getting ahead because the adult population takes at least one new course a year on average. How do they find time? There are pages marketing different universities and colleges as options to escape the work and make you a better employee if you can afford it, or take a course online while you keep working if you can't.

I look through the window of space between crowded bodies on the subway to notice that the girl in front of me is crying. Her earphones are on, preventing communication with the outside world. Yet her eyes, closing to squeeze out the crystals of anguish, say so much. She is such a beautiful girl -beautiful and sad. I wonder what could possibly be wrong for her. Then I think about it again. I think about the teens who commit suicide, thinking as their last thought that it's a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Then I realize the opportunities for depression are endless.

I hate it when others suffer and there's nothing you can do about it. We're all strangers. Do we just shut it out with earphones and closed eyes and go on with life, treading lightly, taking the easy way out, always anonymous? I often think of things I could do to help people but then the moment just passes me by. To think that all of those people that I never changed who will go on hurting makes me feel even more defeated. But then a light turns on over my head and I remember a fortune from a fortune cookie that I kept in my wallet, for no apparent reason other than that I liked what it said.

It's a silly urge: I want to give her a hug because by now she really looks like she could use one. But not knowing whether she will think I'm weird or be annoyed at me or even how I could get her attention, I decide to tap her on the shoulder. She looks up with tears in her eyes, then down to accept the small piece of paper I'm trying to hand her.

A few moments pass and I worry that now things are going to get awkward. Then she smiles and whole-heartedly says "Thank you!" while brushing the tears away. We're deep under ground but it's as if the sun just came out.

Later she gets off the subway. I never find out what was bothering her but I don't care.

The fortune reads: "The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it."
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