A couple of days ago, I was at Finch station after having a particularly trying day at work. The 5pm rush was at it’s best and I was on the escalator. All of a sudden, there was a thud. The old woman and her bags in front of me had fallen down on a descending escalator. Being the polite Torontonians that we are, almost everyone in sight rushed to her aid. She was still a little shaky-looking when she was up but the moment she was back on her feet everyone who had flown to her rescue had vanished as quickly as they had appeared. The woman stood there confused and on the verge of falling for the second time with her bags.
“Here ma’am, let me help you with your bags”. I heard myself say. I lifted one of her bags. If she had told me she was carrying boulders in her bags, I would have believed her. I looked around hoping I would find some nice kind man to help me with the other bag. No one. I was unable to even make eye contact with anyone. Well, I guess my gym workouts came handy after all. It wasn’t until I had carried her bags for a good 7 minutes that she told me that both bags had wheels. Of course.
Still no one to help. We finally reached the subway line. I would have to bid her goodbye and good luck at this point as I wasn’t getting into the station to take the subway. “Alright ma’am, are you going to be okay from here on? I won’t be able to get into the subway with you”
“Of course, I’ll be fine from here. Thank you so much. God bless your good heart my dear” she said these words and stumbled forward. Who the hell was I kidding? There was no way this woman was making it into a subway train without breaking a hip. I pulled out my wallet and fished around for some change. I managed to scrounge up the $3.00 subway fare and silently kissed my next morning’s coffee goodbye.
So I paid the fare and went in with her and made sure she was in the subway sitting comfortably with all her bags and hoped she would be okay when she reached her destination. She said one last God bless you before I left her.
I walked out of the station feeling like a million bucks. I was so proud of myself for being such a good Samaritan when everyone else had walked away with only so much as a look of pity. No other man or woman had offered her help except for me. I had ballooned up with so much pride at my newly self-bestowed saintly status at just the thought that I had paid three bucks to get into the subway car for the sole purpose of helping someone. My indignation towards the rest of the world that no one else had bothered carrying her bags was only topped by my pride that I was the one who did. And while I wasn’t looking for someone to blatantly praise me and pat me on the back for doing this good deed, instead of just reveling in the joy of helping someone, I felt entitled to karma’s returns. I was floating on this cloud of false righteousness and self-importance for 10 whole minutes when I stopped dead in my tracks and snapped to reality.
What had I done really that deserved so much merit? Lets see…I had rolled around a couple of bags for an old woman and all of a sudden the world owed me something. I was irritated that no one else had come to her plight and yet secretly pleased about it just so I would have bragging rights that I did. And I bragged about paying 3 bucks for subway. 3 dollars. I pay more for a latte at Starbucks.
I was hit with the humbling thought that I severely lacked humility. I wanted everyone to notice and nod in approval. Here I was on my high horse avidly lamenting the death of chivalry when not even 3 seconds after helping out someone else, I expected a pot of gold for being such an upstanding human being. Is it possible that maybe it’s not chivalry or basic human kindness that’s dead but humility?
I guess I should be speaking for myself here, but I have come to the conclusion from this simple incident that humility is incredibly underrated. I am inclined to believe that when seemingly simple and selfless acts bring about more of a Pharisee complex than happiness, it’s time to really sit up and pull oneself down from that comfortable cloud of self centeredness, stop complaining about the rest of the world going bankrupt in kindness and start being the person I feel like everyone else should be.