I saw an act of courage today. A man of about my age was walking towards the escalator gingerly. I do know know what disabilities or illnesses he may have had over the course of his lifetime, but it seemed to me that his walking was more an act of will than balance. One arm shook constantly and sometimes violently, the other arm had a minor tremble. His steps where shallow and his feet made a shuffling sound as he walked. And he walked, very, very, slowly.
Behind the escalator, a few feet beyond, are three elevators. I could see him glancing between the moving stairs and the elevators. I could almost hear his thoughts as they played on his face - he was making the decision between easy but far, tricky but near. His chin set and he ambled directly towards to escalator. People were rushing around him, he could have used blinkers because the quick and unpredictable movements of people swarming around him seemed, a couple of times, like they were going to pull him over and into a fall. But he did not fall.
As he approached the point where one more step would take him onto the escalator, now his feet were moving very, very carefully and each step only took him millimeters closer. His eyes saw the moving stairs, he worked at timing the exact moment. I could see sweat run down his brow. The pressure of those behind him making noises of impatience, a noise surprisingly like that of pigs in mud, pressured him. He lifted his foot and stepped on. His right hand grasping the handrail with incredible force, his other arm now almost out of control. I saw him rise slowly and, in a way, majestically towards the second floor.
I saw an act of cruelty today. I was not the only person to see this man make his journey, his decision and his triumph. Others noticed, most simply looked away. But a man in his late twenties holding hands with a little girl of about five, stopped to watch. He pointed at the man, laughing. He didn't see that his daughter looked at him with horror. As the child did not laugh, Daddy got up and did an imitation of the man's halting walk, much to the amusement of others around, particularly those waiting for the step onto the escalator.
I saw an act of courage today. Tears forming in her eyes as her father and others laughed at a man trying to get on to an escalator, a child's heart made a decision. Stepping out from behind her father, she looked at those who were laughing and up at her father and said, 'You are all really mean. Really really mean.' And she stormed off. Her father, startled by her outburst stopped his evil mimicry and ran after her. A couple of the others managed, to their credit, to look shamed.
I saw strength and hope today. I saw cruelty and meanness. I choose to throw my lot in with the old man and the little girl. I choose to live in that world. I choose courage. I choose kindness. Even if I fall on that path, I know I will be surrounded by others who have made the same choice, and they will help me up.