On a ride into Boston I have trouble getting off the commuter train. Even with my cane, the step is too wide for me and I hesitate. There are people behind me waiting for me to move but I can’t.
My husband, not having anticipated this obstacle, isn’t positioned correctly to give me his usual forearm to lean on.
I look to my right. Standing there is a big man with a doo-rag on his head and earphone in his ears.
He looks strong.
He reads my lips and pulls an earphone from his ear.
“Could you give me a hand?”
I don’t explain why. I don’t tell him I need him because I can’t make it on my own. I trust that he can tell, that he can see.
He shifts his bag from one arm to the other and—even in the crush, with people hurrying all around—reaches out for me, giving me a firm hold to grasp onto.
His hand is warm. Thick. Unmoving and steady. I lean on it heavily, shifting my weight down onto the platform.
“Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“Sure,” he says, lifting his chin in that manly way that men have of lifting their chins when they nod.
I look back at him before I begin to move on.
“That was really nice of you.”
“Nuh-uh.” he says, waving that same thick strong hand at me. “It was nothin’.”
Well you know what?
It wasn’t nothing, brother. It was something.
It was something because it wasn’t just you and me—an old white lady and a young black man—it was more than that.
It was people with thick strong hands reaching out through the ages for other people to help them across wide rivers, or wide canyons or heaving crevices.
It was everyone who’s ever reached out to people to help them lift their children out of refugee boats, or to hold out bottled water to help people cross deserts, or to bring shoes and blankets for people to keep warm as they march over boundaries between countries.
It was you standing there in a teeming mass of strangers, ignoring the press and the shove and reaching out to give me the strength that I didn’t have on my own.
It was your blackness crossing over to my whiteness and not either one of us noticing.
It was millions and millions of people doing the same seemingly small thing in some same seemingly small way over and over again over time.
You say it was nothing.
But it wasn’t nothing.
It was something.
Maybe nobody noticed, but I did and I know you did too. I felt it in your hand and I saw it in your face.
It was simple, yeah. It only took about a second, yeah.
But it was something special enough to change the world you and I were standing in.
It was kindness.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Image: Elephant Journal/Instagram
Editor: Katarina Tavčar