Tickets! Tickets, please!

Every morning I wake up, probably later than I should, rush to get ready, grab my bag, keys and cell phone, jump in the car and zip down the road to the bus stop. It’s not uncommon for me to pull into the lot all of 30 seconds before the bus is going to leave and the bus drive even called me out on it the other day. You see, Eric, my bus driver, understands that we have a 15 minute window built in when we get to the train station, so he is kind to those who are not early risers and waits for you to get on the bus when he sees you pull in before he leaves the lot. Not only does Eric wait for us stragglers, but he also does not ask the regulars to see their bus pass every day. And that’s where today just went downhill.

Today’s morning kept going as normal. I even got to the bus more than 30 seconds before it was due to leave. I got on and sat down next to a high school classmate and shortly thereafter we were on our way to the train. I got on the train, sat down and waited for the conductor to come and check my ticket. And three stops later the conductor came by. I dug into my purse to pull out my wallet, and couldn’t find it. So I pulled out some things like my scarf and make-up bag and kept digging around but was unable to find it. Fortunately I have been taking the same bus to the train daily since two weeks after I started my job in October of 2008. For about the past 15 months, we have had the same conductor on the train, and I sit in the same car almost every day, so he knows me and therefore gave me a free pass on getting into work today. So once I realized that I didn’t have my wallet at all, I also realized I had no idea where my wallet was; the last time I used my wallet was for the bus on the way home from work on Tuesday.

Once I was able to confirm that my wallet was safe at home, I wasn’t all too worried. I knew I could get a pass for the day to get into my office and I’d just have to explain to my train conductor and bus drivers on the way home that I left my wallet in CT this morning and I could show my pass to them again tomorrow. Little did I know that the guy who would later sit in the seat next to me on the ride home would also have left his train ticket at home…

But really, it didn’t turn out as such a bad day in the end. What could have turned into a disastrous day didn’t due to a few random acts of kindness. You see, the lady I was sitting next to (well sort of next to, she had the window seat, I had the aisle seat and the middle seat was empty) is a lady that I have seen almost daily on the train ever since I started working. She’s adorable, and when I returned to my normal train after I had a two week training which meant I went into work an hour early everyday for two weeks, she told me she was so happy to see me since she had feared I had lost my job and felt bad that such a sweet young girl was laid off (but low and behold, I was not laid off). As soon as she heard and saw my reaction to not having a wallet with me, she told me that if she had any cash on her, she would have given it to me since she didn’t want to see me go off into Manhattan ID and moneyless for the day. Only moments later, after not hearing the lady to the left of me, the guy sitting across the aisle from me offered me some money as well. He too is a frequent train goer and I see him about 3 times a week in the morning. I graciously turned down his offer as both of my high school classmates that were on the train with me also offered to help, and I would much rather be in debt to a friend than a semi-stranger.

My fellow train-goers weren’t even the only ones that offered to help. I work with my cousin-in-law who offered me lunch money (after he told the security guard not to give me a day pass to the office). And, just as a large portion of my generation, I updated my Facebook status and tweeted my “FML” moment, which also drew in support from friends and one of my aunt’s. So to all you who offered to help, thank you! And to all you who have the chance to help someone by doing something simple, do it! Random acts of kindness can go a long way. And thanks to those who helped me today, I was reminded that a small act can really brighten someone’s day.

Never too Old for Santa

One thing I have strongly believed for a long time is that you are never too old to believe in Santa. If given the choice, why would you choose to not believe? I mean, no I don’t believe that Santa flies around the world bringing gifts to every boy and girl by dropping in through everyone’s chimney. I do believe in what Santa represents though. I like to think that there is always goodness in the world, and I especially like to think that it is present at the holidays. I have seen what the real world can do to people at the holidays. People become stressed out, some loose their family members around the holidays, others have to deal with the economic stress when they can’t really afford presents for their loved ones. Holidays aren’t always negative though. They are a time for joy and cheer. Friends and families come together. People truly step up to the plate and help out. I’ve always known that it is a good thing to do good for others, regardless of the time of year. But I have been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of some of this charity at the holidays.

To me, Santa represents all the hope and love and caring and joy and all the good at the holidays. Santa stands on the corner ringing a bell collecting money for the poor. Santa puts a smile on almost everyone’s face. Santa is the one person people will wait on line for hours to pay to see. Santa allows kids to believe in magic. Santa gives people hope. Santa motivates kids to be good. Santa embodies what is good in our world.

I don’t even remember when I stopped believing in Santa as a little kid. I have a younger sister, so when I came to the realization Santa wasn’t coming down the chimney every Christmas Eve, I kept it to myself as I didn’t want to take anything away from her. Eventually we were both old enough that we knew mom and dad were the ones leaving our gifts under the tree but I didn’t want to stop believing. Until 2007, I always needed to pretend at least that I believed for the sake of cousins but before the last one stopped believing, I was a believer again. When I was younger, there was a Christmas where my dad was out of work and we weren’t supposed to get much that year. Even knowing that, my sister and I had lots of presents that year because someone else stepped in and provided them for us. This year, my father is again unemployed and we all know that money is tight. That said, we were able to have a splendid holiday because of our family and friends. Some of my mom’s friends (some known and some anonymous) truly stepped it up and provided my family with things we otherwise would not have had. It’s people like them that embody Santa and it’s people like them who allow me to still believe. Virginia has always believed in Santa. And I’ll always have Virginia’s back.

the best birthday gift

My birthday has just past and the best birthday gift I received was not a present (though I do like all those that I received). The best gift I was given was a suggestion from a friend. For my birthday, I went out to dinner at Carmine’s, a family-style, Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with my friends Kristen and Mary. After randomly discussing people going out to dinner and intentionally buying more than they could eat in order to have food left over to take home, we quickly realized that we had too much food for the three of us. Even though all we had ordered was a bottle of wine, a salad and a plate of penne alla vodka, the wine was the only thing the three of us were able to finish. The salad and pasta could have easily fed 4-5 people instead of just the 3 of us that were there.

We knew that we would not be able to take the leftovers with us since we didn’t live nearby and we were heading from dinner to Joshua Tree in Murray Hill and no-one wants to head to the bar with a doggie-bag in hand. Mary came up with a wonderful idea during dinner — at the end of the meal, we should ask for a doggie-bag and give our leftovers to a homeless person on the street. At once I knew that I loved this idea and I wanted to do it. So once we could eat no more, we asked the waiter to please wrap up the remaining salad and pasta for us to take with us. After dinner, we left Carmine’s and headed for the subway to Grand Central Terminal. Since I take the train into GCT everyday, I knew that we’d be able to find someone in need of dinner right outside, and that’s what we did. When we were walking down 42nd street right in-front of the station, we passed a girl and guy, not much older than ourselves, looking rather glum and disheveled sitting on the sidewalk with their dog and a sign saying they would work for anything. You could tell they had been on the streets for a bit of time, but that they were sit somewhat new to being out there — or at least, that was my take on them. Once we passed them, I turned around and asked them if they would like our leftovers from dinner. They both looked up with relief across their faces. The girl’s face lit up and she responded very simply, “yes, please”.

Her very simple and polite response nearly made me cry. I am fortunate enough to not only have a roof over my head and food on my plate, but I also know that I will never need to think about they day I could end up on the street. I am blessed to know that there are enough people in my life that would take care of me if a reason ever arose in which I found myself homeless and/or hungry. As soon as she said yes, I placed the bag on the ground in front of them and their belongings and turned to continue walking. I was not looking for a thank you. Nor did I want to make it into a production and draw any unnecessary attention to these people who were just trying to survive.

Not only did this make me feel good because I know I did a good deed, but I have been trying to discern lately what I’m called to do and earlier this week I decided that I am called to serve others. The last three things listed on my bucket list are to make a difference in someone’s life, inspire someone and to be a good person. I have these all marked off as a “continual work in progress”as even if I do make a difference or inspire someone, I hope I can continue to do it and make an impact on someone else’s life. And doing a good deed doesn’t make you a good person, being a good person involves a sum of good deeds and actions done by someone over the entirety of their life…

Once I turned to keep walking, I noticed that almost everyone within 20-feet of me on the sidewalk had stopped to look at me. I wish I could say I don’t know why they looked shocked, but I know why. We don’t often enough see others doing kind actions to others. People in Manhattan don’t tend to take their leftovers with them to hand them out to a stranger. I want to change this. It’s not that hard. From now on, whenever I’m out in the city for dinner, I am going to ask to take any leftovers that I may have and give them to someone who most likely won’t have dinner otherwise. Maybe if you and I all start doing it, by the time I have kids they can learn to do this as well. And hopefully by the time that happens, they won’t have to turn around and have a sidewalk full of people staring at them with judgmental looks. Hopefully our generation can reinstitute chivalry and manners into society. Maybe if we can do that, we truly can make the world a better place…