Another Moment of Humanity on the Orange Line

Lately every time when I am feeling really down and just need to gain perspective, I’ve been getting it. And oddly enough, it’s happening on the Orange line.

Almost exactly a month ago today I wrote about an experience I had when I was coming home from class and I ran into a few corps members who were on their way home from attending an Idealist.org graduate school fair after a long day of service.

Today I was sort of in the same frame of mind. I’ve been incredibly stressed out lately from working and going to school full time simultaneously (#firstworldproblem, I know). I was lucky enough to get out of class about 45 minutes early, which was a huge relief. I popped in my iPhone speakers and began listening to Savage Lovecast as I sat down on the T.

A few minutes into the ride, I noticed a woman probably in her mid to late 40s sitting next to me with a worksheet that had rudimentary vocabulary words on it with lots of scribbles. I assumed that she was an elementary school teacher grading papers.

She noticed me looking over her shoulder at the paper so she grabbed my attention and started pointing at the words. I took out my headphones, took a closer look at the paper, and quickly realized that this worksheet was one that she herself was working on and that she wanted my assistance.

For the next 10 minutes or so, she tracked underneath the words and I said them out loud with emphasized annunciation and she repeated the words after me. If she got stuck on something, we repeated it together until she got it.

When she finally did get it right, I gave her praise and let her know what a great job she was doing.

I can’t imagine what the people sitting around me must have thought. Here I was, reading basic words such as “office” and “human” and “mattress” out loud to a perfect stranger and having her repeat it back to me.

Once we finished the worksheet, I learned through very broken English that she was Cantonese and that she is trying to learn English. As she gratefully shook my hand and shuffled off the train at Ruggles station, I couldn’t really comprehend what had just happened.

I don’t know what made her trust me enough to guide her through this. And I also don’t know if she has anyone in her life that is capable of doing this with her.

All I know is that this was an incredibly special moment; and one I won’t soon forget.

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One comment

  1. One of my favorite parts about my job is the occasional afternoon when I get to volunteer in the dining room or meeting a student in our English classes. There’s so much hope in these women, it’s so incredibly inspiring.

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