Serendipitous Friday

This past Friday was an amazing, serendipitous day. Not just because it was Friday. And not just because I got to leave work early. And, no, it wasn’t the glass of wine I had with dinner (it was a long week, okay?).

In a matter of 12 hours, God put in motion events that opened my eyes and restored my faith in humanity. Honestly, that is the only way I can describe what happened today.

I work as a paraprofessional/aide for a freshman girl, let’s call her Julia, with cerebral palsy in New York City and my day started like all others this week: wake up at 4:15 a.m. to catch the 5:05 train, and travel for almost 2 hours to get to work. Once off the subway, I got my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and bagel, got to school at 7:15, and relaxed with my breakfast and Netflix before Julia got to school and work actually began.

About an hour later, while in class, Julia got physically sick, so we went down to the nurse’s office so she could lay down and wait for her mom to pick her up. I felt bad that she wasn’t feeling well, but I was kind of excited that my weekend would be starting early.

Maybe I could take a nap today. After consecutively getting only 5 hours of sleep each night, that would be great! Oh, happy day.

While waiting for Julia’s mom, a couple of students came in and out of the office, complaining of sore throats, dizziness, or just feeling sad; it’s amazing how extremely life-altering the death of a guinea pig can be to a teenager.

I ended up talking to one of the students and found out how absolutely amazing she is. This girl, whom I had seen in the hallways and had a bunch of assumptions and preconceived notions about. This girl who was very talkative and was a distraction in class at times. This girl blew me away with her life story which included being adopted from Ethiopia at the age of 10 and having spent her last birthday in China helping orphans.

I didn’t ask for anything for my birthday this past year. I already have everything I’ve ever wanted – I’ve been adopted and I don’t live in an abusive family anymore – so I ask to do things to help others.

How amazing and selfless is she?! She also takes part in other foundations, one being charity: water, and has even been able to go back to Ethiopia to help her original community.

Not only that, but she talked about her celebrity friends like it was nothing; “Amy Poehler is so nice,” and, “Hugh Jackman’s wife, I call her Deb, wants to produce my movie.” Where I’m from, we consider Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills players celebrities. And we don’t hang out and go to parties with them. So I was starstruck just by hearing her stories of these events.

Brian Moorman, Buffalo Bills
Snuggling with Brian Moorman, punter of the Buffalo Bills, circa 2008. Like, whoa.

So once Julia’s mom came, I had to figure out which train I would be able to take home. When I got on the train at Penn Station, I was surprised to find that it was already packed. We still had 20 minutes until the train was scheduled to leave – usually it isn’t packed until a couple minutes before. And that’s only during rush hour (before and after usual work hours), so it was odd that it was so full at noon.

And then I realized I had walked onto the wrong train. Shoot. I ride the train everyday, how did I manage this?!

I walked to the door, which was already closed, and started panicking a bit. I had no idea where this train’s destination was, but my train was across the platform. If only I could get the door open…

Some guy walked up to the door from the outside, wanting to get in, and by an amazing act of God, the door opened a bit. It opened just enough for the two of us, me on the inside and this guy on the outside, to pull it open the rest of the way so that we could trade places. That worked out really well.

LIRR train

I got on my (correct) train, which was now a bit packed since I had just wasted time on the wrong train. I sat in a 3-seater, me on one end and a middle-aged guy on the other, with all of his bags in between us. There was a guy in the seat in front of us that started muttering about finding a conductor. His speech was a bit odd, so I couldn’t tell whether he was mentally challenged or drunk or had a stroke or what.

Luckily, the guy I shared a seat with was very patient because Tyrone, the guy in front of us, had a lot of questions. He kept saying how he was trying to get to the Mineola mall; “I gotta go to the mall and get me a new pair of gloves because I lost mine last week. I wanna see how big that mall is.”

He sounded like a child in a 40-year old man’s body. We knew that something was wrong, but weren’t sure what to do about it. Should he be alone? Would the conductor do anything about it to help him? Would he get defensive or aggressive if we tried helping any more than just answering questions?

The guy next to me, whom I later found out is named Jimmy, talked to Tyrone whenever a question was asked, even though many questions were repeated multiple times. “My name is Tyrone. I want to thank you for helping me, sir,” Tyrone said. “I hope you never forget my name.”

Jimmy told Tyrone that he would need to take a bus to get to the mall from the train station, but Tyrone only had 75 cents on him. I gave him the $2 he would need for the bus, Jimmy wrote down the information so that Tyrone could get help from the bus driver, and we figured that was all we could really do.

The first train conductor came by, punching tickets, and Tyrone introduced himself and asked how he could get to the mall. The conductor was pretty patient with him and helped him as best he could, but ultimately walked away letting Tyrone continue his adventure to the mall. “I hope you never forget me,” Tyrone said to him before he walked away. “I won’t, Tyrone. You take care of yourself, okay buddy?” the conductor said, chuckling, before moving on to the next car full of tickets to punch.LIRR ticket punch

A little while later, a second conductor named Donna came through; Tyrone introduced himself and asked how to get to the bus to get to the mall. “Are you alone, honey? Have you made this trip before?” she asked. She ended up telling him not to get off the train at his planned stop, that she would be back for him and would escort him personally.

When we got close to the last stop (I had to transfer to another train to get home), Donna came back to Tyrone and asked him for ID and where he was going. He didn’t have ID but had some papers in his backpack with some information; apparently he was just discharged from a “hospital” earlier in the week, from what Donna read aloud from these papers. She asked again where he was going, to which he responded with his glove spiel.

All of a sudden, a guy comes up behind Donna and hands her a pair of red gloves. “They’re double insulated; he can have them.” Wow, that was so nice of him, I thought. Tyrone thanked the man, and as I looked around, a smile on my face, I noticed that everyone else was smiling too.

Pulling into the station, Jimmy asked Tyrone if he had eaten today. After Tyrone shook his head, Jimmy pulled out an apple and a banana and gave them to Tyrone. Then the girl behind us handed Tyrone half of a sandwich she had left over from lunch.

Oh my gosh. It was so wonderful seeing all of these strangers come together to help someone in need. Being in New York City (but I’m sure this applies to practically any city), everyone is so consumed with our own lives and problems that we forget to look at the needs of others. And even then, we see these needs but don’t know how to help because there are so many people that need help. And then there are times when we simply don’t want to help, so we look past those in need without a second thought.

Times Square - I took this back in 2011
Times Square, NYC

My heart was soaring and I couldn’t stop smiling. I mean, the fact that God placed all of us in the vicinity to help him was absolutely phenomenal. There could’ve been another, less patient man in Jimmy’s seat who wouldn’t have looked up bus fares or schedules for Tyrone to help him.

The man with the gloves could’ve simply kept them hidden in his pocket, reasoning that his hands were cold, or that they were his favorite pair, or whatever other excuse.

And if Donna hadn’t come down the aisle and taken Tyrone under her wing, who knows where he would have ended up if he got off the train at Mineola. Check out this article I found from April on that features Donna as one of NYC’s most popular train conductors!

So during the rest of my commute home, I was hoping and praying for Tyrone’s safety and well-being, thanking God for putting us in the situation, and allowing me to help, albeit in such a minuscule way. I mean, $2 for bus fare is such a small thing. But I’m so glad I could be involved.

When I got off the train, waiting for the “railroad crossing” arms to go up, I ran into Jimmy! I introduced myself to him because we hadn’t throughout the whole ordeal earlier. He told me his name was Jimmy and said my name was beautiful. I thanked him for what he did on the train earlier, and he thanked me for my $2. We said good-bye and I threw in “I hope you never forget my name!” in memory of our friend Tyrone.

He assured me he wouldn’t. And I won’t forget what I witnessed today – my faith in humanity has been restored. And all because Julia got sick. And then I almost took the wrong train. But I ended up right where I was supposed to be; it was true serendipity.

2 Replies to “Serendipitous Friday”

  1. This story has me sitting here and smiling, I’ll never meet Tyrone, but I’ll certainly remember him thanks to you. I hope on some future train ride your paths cross again. I’d love to hear an update on what he thought of the mall!

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