Riding Metro North. Searching, for Important.

Jenny Offill : “To live in a city is to be forever flinching.”

Tuesday morning.

A brisk walk to train station.  32 F feels like 26 F.  No snow, no slush, no sleet.  Dry.  January.  I’ll take this all day, all winter long.

5:48 am train to Grand Central.

Plenty of empty seats.

I slide by her into a seat next to the window.

She offers me a smile, and tucks her legs in to let me pass.

I nod, offering my thanks.

She’s reading a soft cover book, verses of some sort. I can’t make it out. 98% of the rest of us are heads down into our gadgets.

She’s wearing a long (long), black puffer coat, that drapes down to the top of her black boots. A black knit cap. A knitted scarf wrapped around her neck.  She’s in her late 60’s to mid 70’s would be my guess. She turns the page. Why am I so distracted by her? Her elbows and knees are tucked in, and she’s sitting comfortably in her lane. Lady @ Peace comes to mind.

But for the industrial heaters blowing warm air through the ceiling vents, the train car is silent.

She gets up in anticipation of her stop.

The vestibule is crowded with passengers waiting to get off.

She waits quietly at the back of the line.

Then as the train car pulls up to her stop, she shouts:


She pauses.

Heads up and down the train car lift, waiting for the next shoe to drop.  A “Jesus Saves!” A “Please help me buy a cup of coffee.”  Or a “can you spare me a few dollars for breakfast?” Or “my Child has Cancer.”

But no, that’s not it. She did none of that. She continued on.


She paused. And then continued.


She bowed her head, and walked out of the train.

I watched her walk down the platform, quietly, head down, minding her own business.

The train pulled away from the station. Heads drop, back to the gadgets.

Not so long ago, I would have shrugged, just another Crazy on the train. Duck for cover. Avoid all possible contact or confrontation.

Today, not so much.

Szymborska sums it up: “When I see such things, I’m no longer sure that what’s important is more important that what’s not.”


Notes: Photo: Dark Photographs. Szymborska poem excerpt: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels


  1. This trip took my breath away. This is exactly what happens daily, hourly, always, on all the trains, metros in the Paris region. We all suffer from the constant verbal and visual onslaught, we look down at our feet when little papers are being placed in our lap, when hands reach out for money, lunch-cheques, unstamped tickets. It’s a (bad) sign of our times, it’s a clear signal that we don’t want to be involved in ANYTHING at all.
    When in Switzerland or rural England, this doesn’t happen. No beggars, no unwanted musicians. I don’t say that people are happier or are not bound to stare into their gadgets. BUT – and this is NOW, as I am in Switzerland at the momenbt – I am always happily surprised to see people READING (newspapers, free papers, books, yes, real books), when a parent enters with a stroller, people help, the same for elderly or infirm travellers – it honest to God changes your life immediately for the better!
    Dave, dear friend, unbeknown in person, you are on your way. You slowly evolve into the person you want to be, deep down in your heart. You become more aware of what goes on and when (and IF) the moment should arrive that you won’t be physically attached to your electronics, you will find that you breathe more easily too.
    Sending hope and strength your way.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. We all have different roles in the universe. Hers is to make us think… and smile 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  3. it is these moments, so simple and yet so incredibly powerful, that move us and inspire us with just the faintest glimmer of hope, in even the most challenging of personal circumstances and place

    Liked by 4 people

  4. An encounter that brings us back to ourselves and into communion with those around us—even if only for a moment—can be intoxicating, enlivening, and enlightening. 💕

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So funny that you would recall a quote from Barberry, for your post made me think of the same book…Perhaps it was not just in the story you penned, but also in the way you wrote it…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Not so long ago, I would have shrugged, just another Crazy on the train. Duck for cover. Avoid all possible contact or confrontation.”

    It’s been a delight watching you evolve from “Not so long ago”. You softened significantly over the years🙂

    Here in Chicago, on the train, a young man got up and recited a poem to everyone. That everyone politely listened and few thanked him, sent shivers up my spine and goosebumps all day. It was beautiful to witness. That was right after our last elections by the way.

    Thank you for sharing 🙏🏻

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Beautiful post, DK.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I feel so limited to add anything of worth here except to say, what a wonderful moment to have witnessed and to have not dismissed.
    I love these…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Everything we do has a ripple. If she lifted one heart, lessened the monotony of the daily grind for one person, then she has made a difference in the world. And your retelling of her story is the ripple she created that continues to spread out here as we each read and feel the hope and joy of her one action connected to your wonderful story-telling that also reveals the softening you are experiencing. How delightful. How lovely.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. What she did was enough. What freedom to do one thing and walk away knowing what you’ve done is yours to do and it was/is enough. I love this so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Valerie Meluskey says:

    I love her! Here’s a woman who has learned not to be “forever flinching”!
    [“To live in a city is to be forever flinching.”]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “She’s wearing a long (long), black puffer coat, that drapes down to the top of her black boots. A black knit cap.” Initially, I wondered if this was to be a second encounter with the Long Cool Women in a black dress that you encountered at your morning train platform over a year ago who was dubbed “The Crow Women” who had a presence that you wanted to stay far, far away from…Thankfully Not! ///This women commanded attention, perhaps similar to the scene of a conference room with those in attendance for a board meeting when the Chairman walks in, and addresses the room…after reading about a train instance that took place 2017, yesterday & now in the trial phase & the aftermath in the location of my childhood city…I think of how there was a horrible person who stood up speaking hate and there were others who stood up intervening, much too sad…/// I think about what you might have Gained by asking her, a wise older woman what she was reading…I think you might have had an Encounter of added Wonder…”We have to Reach Out to Reach In” and What she said, I Hope Resonates within each person who heard her speak on the train this morning…I wish you all the same..”“GOOD MORNING EVERYONE.PLEASE HAVE A BLESSED DAY. AND BE HAPPY!” I hope her words, Continue to Echo in All of US…for a long time…for she reminds us that sincere caring kindness exist…

    Liked by 2 people

  14. LOL, I really hate to read this. Because I do stuff like that every now and then. Maybe twice a year. Ok, more like 5 times a year. Any more than that and I’d have to think I was crazy.
    The reason I do it? Because I can. Not everybody can. I mean, anybody could do it, but not everybody should. It kinda takes a lot out of you, and energizes you all at the same time..

    Liked by 2 people

  15. A little bit “crazy, yes, but in a good way.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Gentle reminders of our humanness and connection to all often show up carrying messages when our mundane seems more important. At least, that is what I find for this Canuck in Chicago, David. Cher xo

    Liked by 1 person

  17. What a wonderful exchange! Connections like that make my day; unexpected, brilliant gifts of humaneness that stop us dead in our weary, jaded tracks. You cannot buy that brand of sunshine. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  18. what a great way to start the day; we need more people like this woman!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I LOVE the Szymborska quote.


    If we are to shift into an emerging paradigm that is more in line with our values, dreams, and our welfare, this lady doesn’t appear to be crazy at all. I’ll admit, I wish I had her courage in social situations, but I do what I can, where I can, toward the same end, I believe.

    So many of us have become sheep, many without even realizing it. It must seem easier somehow than living with eyes wide open to the global issues surrounding us these days.

    One of my tags for one of my photos, a lot of my photos on Instagram actually, is #bethechange.
    Cool that she got you to look up, take note of her message, and to even write about the experience! Further, to share it. Be the change,indeed. Fun post. ☺️🎯🌈

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you for such kind words Louise. Love your Post!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you David for being such an inspiration and a beautiful human being.

    Liked by 1 person


  1. […] on Live & Learn, David Kanigan, the blog’s host, shared a beautiful story of a moment on the train into NYC […]

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