Surprising love in a city of strangers

Silver doors quickly slide open, and my family and I piled into the subway car with everyone else. All of the seats were taken: It was morning rush hour.

But, our five year old whined, “I waaannt toooo siiiit.”

Mortified, we tried to hush him thoroughly. But before we did, a man in his fifties of a darker hue wearing a baseball cap got up without a word and moved aside. And my son plopped down in his place.

That man stood before me smelling of cigarettes and alcohol, and I wondered what his story was and what caused him to give up his seat to a demanding boy he didn’t even know.

I looked at this man, amazed, and said: “Thank you.” And he glanced at me and nodded with a sense of understanding and then went back to gazing at nothing.

Every time we enter a subway car, what happens is this.

People get up.

Once they see my wife wearing our three-month-old, walking with my five-year-old, they automatically surrender their seats to strangers—to us.

Women, men, young, old, light-skinned or dark, white collared or blue, it doesn’t matter. All rise to the occasion—to this unspoken rule—unspoken but followed.

Love thy neighbor, especially if they are small and helpless, by sacrificing your comfort so they can be comfortable. It’s living art. It’s small but great. It’s humanity shining.

Surprise takes me every time, and I marvel at the generosity of these people in this city. We are strangers, yet we are friends, maybe family. And in that moment we are connected, loving and loved. We are grateful for you.

We love you.

All of you.

Fatherhood: Reflections on the last days of summer with my son

Popcorn, beer, and fans in blue surrounded us. Summer sun was beating down; a cool wind comforted us; and the crowd roared when a homerun soared over the back wall.

His face glowed with hope and joy as we sat: My son and I perched in the Bronx. 

He knew that I didn’t like staying for a full game, but he asked me, “Dad, can we stay till the end?” 

Usually, I said no, giving a reason like we needed to get home to do something important. 

But a realization slapped me, hard. And it was this. The only summer I have with my son as a five-year-old is ending. 

“Make the most of it, fool,” I thought to myself. 

Making as many happy memories as I could with him became my aim, doing the things he wanted, even if they went against what I preferred. 

So we stayed. 

The innings were exciting. But witnessing the wonder and excitement in his eyes brought me the greatest joy. My son smiled, cheered, clapped, and laughed. And I couldn’t help but join him.

And I found myself not wanting to leave the game even after the last out. 

But we both left satisfied, hand-in-hand—father and son. 

Confessions of an introvert: unexpected events at a barbecue

Walking into a room full of people can be hard. A party isn’t just a party, especially if you’re an introvert like me. They are work.

But it’s summer in the city, and people want to barbecue. And I got invited to one in Brooklyn.

Usually, I would have stayed safely at home, giving an excuse about needing to take care of our newborn (children are always the perfect leave-me-alone-I’m-an-introvert card). But this day I felt like it would be good to put myself out there and connect.

When I arrived at the beautiful rooftop, a breeze was blowing, and the weather was unseasonably cool for an evening in August; but the crisp air was magical in the midst of the canvas of twinkling city lights surrounding us like the stars in the night. 

About fifteen guys broken into smaller groups of two to four were drinking beer, talking, and getting ready to devour meat. They were friendly, but not all were my friends. Not because they weren’t good guys, I just didn’t know them well enough yet. 

There were some I knew better than others and would even call them friends. But I didn’t expect them to treat me the way they did. They ignored me. 

At one point, one of them reached around me to throw something away but didn’t even bother to say hello. I had to remind myself that I had been invited, even though it felt so uninviting.

The night wasn’t a complete disaster. There were two good conversations with a couple of people I didn’t know well, and hearing their stories was a privilege. It felt as though I might have made two new friends. 

As the hours wore on, my bed’s call to me transformed from gentle wooing to shouting; resisting was too hard, so I left. 

And as I walked home, I reflected on the time, the interactions, and the lack of them. Gratitude filled me as I thought about the conversations had, but I couldn’t help thinking about the friends who seemingly ignored me. It was hard not to blame them. It was what they did to me. 

But then an unsettling thought occurred to me: I didn’t greet them either. I didn’t walk up to them and say hello. I wasn’t inviting; I wasn’t friendly. 

Furthermore, I said to myself, “Maybe they are introverts like me, where a party isn’t just a party but an inner battle. Maybe they were working through their own issues, and none of it had anything to do with me; and it was just me being self-absorbed and petty. Maybe. Probably.” 

A new voice filled my mind. It was a mentor’s. “Those who extend friendship have friends; those who don’t won’t,” he told me once when I was a college student. 

Two decades later, I’m still learning this lesson:

To have friends, you must be one.  

How New Yorkers react to our five pound baby

New York can be a hard place. People are rushing around you, treating you as if you weren’t human, only something in their way. The bustle can be overwhelming. You can get lost in the shuffle and feel like a number. But living here with a family has been very different, especially with a newborn.

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The Saturday afternoon we lost our son

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and we were in Washington Square Park, the iconic park in downtown Manhattan. The large marshmallow clouds marched in rows over the skyline; there was a slight breeze that brought comfort from the warmth of the sun shining down on the sea of humanity. The fountain was spraying water in the air, while kids danced and frolicked in the water. The landmark arc was white and seemed to glow as it towered over everything and everyone. People were everywhere: around the fountain, on benches, milling around, walking through, watching entertainers, on the grass in bathing suits. Dancers were dancing, musicians were playing, and the audiences were paying. Every creed, color, nationality seemed present. It was a collage of park, people, art, music, city, and nature. It was truly humanity at its best on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. 

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