In New York City a couple of weeks ago, I sat on a hot, crammed subway car with a gun in my face.
I was holster-level to a huge cop standing over my seat, his hand through the loop above my head.
So. Many. People.
We were crammed in like the proverbial sardines.
Did I mention I tend toward claustrophobia? And gun aversion?
My stop was a half an hour away. I could feel my chest tightening, my palms getting wet.
That’s when I remembered something I keep re-remembering all the time: find something to appreciate, and you’ll feel better.
Thank you, I said in my mind to the cop, for risking your life to take care of people.
His holster bumped against his massive hip.
Thank you for being a good guy. I hoped he was. He probably was.
I’m glad you’re here in this car. I think I’m pretty safe with you right here.
It was helping a little.
Suddenly I remembered something I’d heard Ram Dass talk about in a taped lecture.
“Practice seeing people’s souls,” he’d instructed. He had even said to try it in a crowded place like New York.
And here I was, a Californian in New York City.
How did one see a soul? I wasn’t sure. But I closed my eyes for a minute, took a deep breath, and opened my eyes.
All the kids in the car lit up. There were five of them, and they were warm and shiny.
How interesting that it was easier to feel the souls of the babies and children, especially the little girl next to me—maybe seven years old—who was nestled next to her mom.
The adults felt like they had shells—but I was patient, and soon I could feel warmth the through the hairline cracks.
I began to wonder if feeling souls had spaced me out. Had I missed my stop?
Seemed like the cop was the one to ask. He said he didn’t know. But he said it nicely, and he smiled.
The mother of the seven-year-old girl spoke up.
“That stop is just two away,” she said. Friendly, not what I think of as “New Yorker” abrupt. She, too, offered a smile and a little explanation of the various stops on the route.
That’s when I saw that her daughter—whose soul felt like a golden, expanding bubble—was wearing a tee-shirt that said: “I <3 being me.”
The heart was sparkly.
I said to her, “I can’t think of a better message to wear around all day.”
Plus it was purple and pink.
She and I launched into a conversation about how you can’t help but be in a good mood when you’re wearing a shirt like that.
When they got off at the next stop, both mom and daughter said goodbye to me, and the little girl turned around one last time and waved.
She and her mom were black, and I’m white, and the cop was black. I don’t know if that makes a difference to the story but I feel like it might, a little.
When I got off on my stop, I did something I have always wanted to do: walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
It was a brilliant, sunny day. The skyline shimmered. I passed a woman wearing a tee-shirt that had a heart on it. A few minutes later, I saw another. Then a few minutes later, a guy with a tee-shirt that said “Love Life,” also adorned with a heart.
I counted maybe ten people with hearts on their shirts.
Despite the fact that I was in one of the most crowded places in the world, I’d never felt so strongly that we are all one.
Author: Kate Evans
Editors: Renée Picard; Nicole Cameron