I'm originally from the Midwest - St. Louis to be exact (home of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals)! I'm quite proud of my Midwest heritage and values. Things like saying hello to people you pass when you're out running; or saying excuse me when you bump into someone - what I would sum up as simply being considerate of your fellow human beings. DC I often find is the total opposite of these values. I ride the metro subway system every day and people are so rude, inconsiderate and self-focused. For example, last night I was on a pretty crowded train. We pulled up to a stop where usually half the train gets out. Despite this fact, a woman screamed out, "Get me off this train!" and just ploughed people over to get out even though the majority of us were all exiting. Now the Midwestern side of me wonders if maybe she was really claustrophobic and lost clarity and really needed to get out. But I've lived in DC long enough now to doubt that idea. To make matters worse, as the rest of us were trying to exit the train after getting ploughed over by the woman, another man on our train yelled at the people on the platform waiting to get on our train. (Usually people crowd in near the doors and leave a small aisle of space for people getting off the train. It's not a great system, but at least they don't totally block the doors.) This man just kept yelling as he walked by them, "Get out of the way, so we can get out!" I understand his frustration, but to be totally judgmental, I would bet you that he is also one that crowds in near the metro doors when he needs to get on a train. Yes, that's very judgmental (and non Midwestern) of me. It just drives me nuts how rude people are.
I think I'm more sensitive to the rudeness of this city after I've been home for a visit (which I was over Thanksgiving). When my plane landed in St. Louis (home of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals) an older (not old) gentleman stood up in the aisle to get his items from the overhead bin. He then proceeded to pull the coat and bag of the stranger sitting by him and hand them to him. It was so nice! It's not that you never see those acts of kindness in DC, but it's a lot rarer.
However, this morning my faith in people was a bit more restored. Today as I was commuting in on the subway, I was a little heavy-loaded because I was carrying a bag full of Bread for the World materials I had from a presentation I did last night and I had a separate bag full of my work out clothes, so I can go to the gym tonight. I really wanted to get a seat since I was carrying so much crap, but when the train pulled in I saw it was already fairly full and only a few seats left. I could have done what most people do, which is just shove my way on first and race to plop down in a seat, but I did not. By the time I got on, there was one seat left and a man and I were walking towards it from opposite directions. I slowed down to let him have it, but he saw me with my heavy bags and just stopped and grabbed the overhead bar indicating without a word that I could have the seat. I was very grateful and it restored faith in my heart that there is goodness in the people that live in this city.
Here's to celebrating the worth and dignity of every human being!
Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. Let me know if you're doing anything in your campus or community. Tomorrow, I'll post what my friend Rebecca will be doing in Mozambique for World AIDS Day.
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