The train stops and, just for a moment, I am sitting parallel to him
Me in the train, sheltered by the steel walls,
him in the station, vulnerable and in the midst.
He is playing an instrument,
and suddenly, I see from his perspective.
People rush by, averting their eyes, head down, briefcases clutched.
We’ve seen this before. It is familiar. Ignore the needy so you’re not responsible.
But today I’m with him on the receiving end.
Trains come, trains go.
People come, people go.
It is colors and noise and movement and somehow he seems so separate. Fixed. Not a part of the ‘real world.’ Things happen around him, not with him.
His necessity is their inconvenience.
He gives his talent freely to an unwilling audience, a resisting audience.
Yet he stays, plays, waits.
The doors close and the train speeds away, bringing me closer to my important appointment or meeting or deadline.
And I can forget about him. We can all forget about him and hide behind deadlines and luxury and noise.
And not just him, but all of them
The man who beats his cup for change next to the grocery store
The boys who play buckets like drums in the subway tunnel
The man with the long hair who wanders the same block downtown over and over again
The woman who sits under the awning covered in blankets
The war veteran with the cardboard sign
The man who tries to make conversation with everyone in sight
The unemployed man who walks the trains not to ask for money, but to pass out his resume
The boys who stand on the corner during the day because school has failed them
The senior citizens who stay in their homes all day because they don’t have the bus fare
The eager students who don’t know that 60% of their classmates will not graduate
The refugees who spend their lives waiting for something better than stick tents
The teens who leave their families and think it is better for them across the border
The children whose parents have been killed or lost
The villagers who see more deaths than births since disease has taken over
The victims of the latest natural disaster
The urban slave workers who have made my shirt
That is what character is, life is. Deciding what you notice.