This morning was an especially chaotic and crazy Wednesday. It all began by tripping over my cat, Smokey, who I know is plotting a mutiny against me with my other cat Pouncer, as I ran out the door. I was in such a state of disarray that I unthinkingly dashed out of my warm house into my already warmed up vehicle, minus one very warm "George Costanza" puffy coat. Without any coat at all for that matter. I failed to realize this until I pulled into the train station (already 7 minutes behind schedule). As I began the foot race to catch the train, I felt angry and upset at myself for starting the day off so poorly and cursed my failing memory of important things...like a coat.
Because I was a teency bit late, I failed to score my usual one seat Hilton suite on the train, fully equipped with a small table AND a power outlet for my laptop and/or smart phone charger. It's like Heaven. Curse you college students for being more on time and organized than I this cold Wednesday morning! I was officially seat-less and had to scrounge up any available seat that I could. So I popped a squat across from a gentleman dressed basically in rags, who was apparently carrying his entire life around in a very used plastic Wal-Mart grocery bag. I gave him the once over and quickly avoided eye contact. I started to gently message my left temple in an attempt to rub the developing morning caffeine withdrawal headache pain out of my throbbing brain. I also quickly started to fumble through my jumbo sized purse in search of those coveted noise canceling headphones, along with something...anything to read.
Before I had the chance to block any incoming conversation, the homeless man asked, "Where's your coat?" I looked behind me as if there were a small chance the man was addressing some other person behind me. When I realized he was talking to me, without looking up I mumbled, "Oh...uh..I forgot it this morning." I could feel the man's unrelenting gaze and sensed the silent judgment I knew he was inevitably passing on me for how disheveled and unorganized I must have appeared. Although I was trying to avoid further conversation, the man said, "That's too bad. It's going to be a cold today. Do...you want mine?" "Want your....what?" I asked. "Coat," said the man as he gently pulled at the collars of his ultra- light and tattered wind breaker jacket. This kind, gentle offer took me so far back, I needed a moment to regroup. My brain couldn't process that this person, who had literally nothing, just offered me, an unorganized discombobulated stranger, the shirt off his back. I didn't know what to say. "Oh..no." I replied. "My office isn't even a block away from the train stop. I'll be fine. Thank you though." He smiled, gently nodded and then opened his plastic bag and became distracted with its contents. I however, was transfixed on what had just happened.
As I looked away, I felt a few hot tears welling up in my eyes. I took a quick glance at the other peeps riding the train this morning. I never really noticed or paid attention to how many affluent men there were riding the train. A sea of dark suits and subdued ties. Warmly bundled in wool coats, scarves, hats and gloves. Warm shoes and socks, and I wondered if any of them had ever even considered to offer their coat to someone without one. I know I honestly never would have. The thought hadn't ever crossed my mind to go without a coat for one day so a stranger could stay warm. But then again, I've never gone without either.
Why did it take the generosity of a total "less fortunate" stranger to remind me how fortunate I really was? Does going without really reaffirm how fortunate you are for what little you have that you would feel obligated to share it with others? I guess so.
Thank you "train buddy" for teaching me a lesson of gratitude and of selflessness.