Thursday, January 8, 2009

When you stop to talk to the crazies...

... it can make you smile :)

I had a meeting on the other side of downtown. I am in in Alberta. In winter. During a cold snap. I was being lazy and taking the train instead of walking. 

I heard the train come and was rushing down the stairs when I got delayed by 2 men in front of me, blocking most of the path. One was on crutches, the other helping him down the steep concrete stairs. 

I frustratedly squeezed past them and grabbed the door, holding it open until they made it in (I am Canadian, we're notoriously polite). I stood up against a wall, thinking about the meeting ahead, and waited for my 2 stops to come. One of the men, the one helping the guy on crutches, stopped to thank me for holding the door. Then he noticed my scarf and complimented it.  And I looked more closely at him, and listened to his words. 

This scarf is a find from last year, Winner's. It's more a pashmina. But a warm-brown, large knit pashmina. I wear it over my shoulders, over my coat for extra warmth. It's amazing to me, despite the weight I have gained, I am always cold. 

Carrying on... I try not to believe in stereotypes. I am concious of the power they have and try to ignore them. But I was hit in the face with so many stereotypes...

First, the man was drunk. The moment he spoke I was awash in the smell of some sweet alcohol. Second, he was had the look of the homeless. Number 1 also hinted at the lack of life stability. Third, he was aboriginal. Fourth, the one that made me pause... he had the stereotypical gay mannerisms. 

As he staggered and swayed in the train (and I dodged his breath) he told me about how is hunting for, er... looking for a new scarf. He wanted a soft grey one, he thought it would match nicely. He told me about the jacket he REALLY wants ($600 at Holt Renfrew) but he can't afford it. But how good he would look in it!  He told me he's always cared what he looks like, as he self consciously smoothed out his outfit. Which, while likely wasn't bought new, it was all clean and did all match. Despite carrying the stigma of so many sterotypes, or because of it, this man took such pleasure in his appearance, in his clothes...

Other people edged away from us, shooting him dirty looks out of the corners of their eyes. The drunken homeless man. But the more he talked, the more animated he became. And the more I began to believe he isn't used to being treated with courtesy, like someone whose story is worth hearing. Almost too quickly my stop came. I wished him luck in finding the right scarf and exited. 

As I was going up the escalator, I heard someone yell "Thank you! I love your scarf!" I turned around to see this man, hanging himself out the door, waving goodbye. And as I waved back, I was filled with such simple joy. That man took me away from my upcoming meeting, my work, my busy life and made me genuinely smile. 

And that is the story behind small grace #2 today... 

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