Don’t need a reason to help

Mark Francis

Originally I sat at Grace Park last Friday — at the very top of Nob Hill after work — to reflect on a week of awkwardness and heartache. Here the dogs and their owners had run rampant, yet my mind was thinking back to Tuesday afternoon.
So I began to jot down my thoughts with a pad and a pencil as I sat there patiently at a bench, with the occasional dog running up to me to play fetch.

This is what came to me as I wrote:
A few days ago, I , like many others out there in the Bay Area, took the last commute BART train out of San Francisco to head back home to Pittsburg. Here, the train was packed to the brim with workaholics and people digging deep into their smart-phones. It was only once we arrived at the Orinda station, that someone caught my eye.

Walking onto the train was a teenager, not much older then seventeen — could have even been fourteen. He walked with downcast eyes and a grey hoodie hiding himself from the world around him. He looked lost, confused and secretly angry. One glance and you could tell that he hated the world that he lived in.

It wasn’t that hard to guess why he was on this train, his lips where busted and there were hints of blood showing up unchecked. Perhaps he got into a fight, or perhaps family issues… maybe a mixture of both with getting on BART as his ticket out of it all.

He did one thing different and edgy in that packed BART train, instead of stalking for a seat, he picked the dirty floor as his resting spot.

Everyone else did not bat an eyelash at him, they were too busy with trivial matters of the smartphone to care. I looked up and wondered what was wrong with him sitting there.

My first thought was that, he must be up to no good. But who I am to judge, looking back at this situation. I had a rather off day as well on Tuesday; I just wanted to get home, hit the gym and sleep. I was in no mood to chitchat then and there with this child. But looking back on this, perhaps I should have and made a difference.

The way you go about saving a life, is not giving out a remedy and saying, “Call me tomorrow and tell me how you feel.” It’s not a quick-fix, but instead it’s something that will always take some time. With friends we do it all the time, we spend time with them to figure out what their problems and issues are in life. And we learn to accept those with them and help them get through it. With strangers it’s different, a simple “Hi” or an easy “Thank you” can really go the distance in cheering up someone having a bad, lonely day.

This kid, I now wonder, if I said something would it make a difference in his life? Probably not, but if so then maybe I could have cheered him up. If I was sitting down, should I have offered him my spot, would that have made a difference?
Perhaps, but instead I was standing for the whole ride towards the end of the line, Pittsburg. This kid stayed on the floor throughout the whole 40 minutes, where he went afterwards is a mystery. Did he run away and is now considered missing on a milk carton? Did he commit suicide in a world that he believed doesn’t believe in him? Or was he simply heading to Pittsburg to visit a close friend of his to chat too and let off some pent up anger?

I believe in the concept of, “You don’t need a reason to help people” yet sadly I failed at that this time. Perhaps next time it’ll be different, maybe I will say, “Hi” and “Thank you” to a random stranger who looks to be having a bad day.
Think about it, wouldn’t it feel great to get a greeting from someone on those off-days you tend to get?