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Who Is Sitting Next To You

I read the most moving piece this week.  The authors asked the people on the R train for their personal story and collected them into one Humans-of-New-York-like piece “that attempts to capture the city’s voice through first-person stories, spoken and written, about how our disparate lives intertwine.”

Like there’s the kid on his way to the doctor’s office who states: “I’m afraid I’ll die before I can upload my brain to the cloud and live forever in a video game.”  Or the man from Istanbul who describes himself as a “yes-person.”  Or the lighting salesman who is on his way to walk on the beach.

But it was Mina who dove deep into my heart.  She’s pictured reading while holding two stuffed animal.  The author asks, “Can you tell me about the dolls?”

Yes, yes, these are my babies, because I don’t have any kids, unfortunately, but also I can’t have any pets in my building. But I need something to love. Bebe, this is the duckling, she’s 12 years old. And this is Bebe Chaka, a tiny bear, she’s 7. These are my babies.

Mina, 57, of Park Slope; she’s one of us.

If you saw her on the train, you would never know.  She’d just be sitting there with her book.  You’d maybe wonder about the stuffed animals, but you’d probably assume she was holding them for a child.

The point: that everyone you encounter as you move through the world has a rich backstory.  And we have no clue as we sit next to one another for a minute or two the connections that possibly exist between us.  Take a look around you today.  Wonder about the people within arm’s reach.

Share one thing about yourself with all of us.  Make a connection.


1 Charlotte { 11.15.17 at 8:41 am }

I love this piece so much. Thanks for linking to it, because I missed the first Humans of NY piece and I can’t wait to go back and read the whole thing.

Right now, I am hanging out with my two littlest boys at home, about to have some coffee. But my oldest boy is away this week, at Outdoor School (like a sleep-away camp that is part of our county’s 6th grade curriculum). It’s the first time he has ever been away from me for more than a night. I spend 2 weeks getting all his supplies and packing him up, and Monday morning hugged and kissed him goodbye. I tucked the brand new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book in his bag, since he can’t have any electronics. It was supposed to be for Christmas, but I wanted him to have something special. So part of my heart is missing right now. I am working on a dinner of his favorite foods for when he returns Friday and a Welcome Home banner we are all going to decorate.

2 Cristy { 11.15.17 at 10:50 am }

What a cool idea! How often do we get to hear the stories of those around us? To get a glimpse into their world? I’ve been staring at Mina’s photo following your insight. You’re absolutely right.

One thing, huh? How about this: I wake up each day terrified that I’ve made the wrong decision about how to live my life. That I fought too hard some things that were never meant for me and that, in doing so, I’ve ruined things that could have been. I think about this a lot as of late, especially with all that is happening. And I hope for a sign that isn’t wasn’t all in vain.

3 Jjiraffe { 11.15.17 at 11:11 am }

Love this article, thanks for flagging.

4 Jjiraffe { 11.15.17 at 11:17 am }

Sorry, hit done too soon!

Backstory item: my dad was a journalist and I work with media. It’s been tough to see that supporting yourself as a writer has become so tough, and it makes me sad. These kind of articles show that best in reportage. It is so important, because by understanding others through their stories we become more aware and empathetic (this has actually been proven by studies).

5 Mali { 11.16.17 at 11:31 pm }

This is great. It is evidence once again that everyone has a story, and we have no idea what that story is, so we should always hold back our judgement. Thank you so much for finding this, and reminding me to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

6 Valery { 11.17.17 at 7:04 am }

The ring I wear every day, it was my birthday present when we started TTC. The stone looks like the picture of the egg leaving the ovary I discovered later. When no take home baby was born from my own eggs it turned out to be the symbol of the miscarriage.
5 years later, another milestone birthday, celebrated with a necklace, matching stone, for the donor eggs we received.
This year a bracelet. Two colours of metal, embracing a matching stone in the middle. For our combined family, with a little girl in the middle (and a bit of empty space for the disappeared twin)

7 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.17.17 at 7:11 pm }

This article will come to mind when I am next on public transportation.

Um…I guess I’d disclose that I cry at least once a week. I feel like that’s too much.

8 Jess { 11.20.17 at 8:45 pm }

I love this so much, and it took me some time to read through it all and then find this post again… I love the stories of the people you see daily. I miss this from when I worked in NYC and lived in Yonkers — imagining the stories behind the familiar faces was always interesting.

One thing about me? I am terrified of bridges. Like, hyperventilate-and-cry as I drive over them. Even though I’d rather be the one driving than as a passenger. It goes back to childhood, when I’d cross the Tappan Zee bridge in the backseat of the family Toyota, and I always had my hand on the door handle so I could somehow get the door open if we went over and I could get out and not sink to the bottom of the Hudson.

9 Not My Lines { 11.25.17 at 5:49 pm }

I grew up in an uber-judgmental household, where everyone’s behaviors were always taken at face value and often criticized. As I became an adult, I began to learn the importance of understanding hidden stories and having compassion, even when I don’t. I love this project because it gives me hope that maybe the judgmental types in my family can someday understand there is more to others than meets the eye.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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