The other morning I took a bus to get to the subway station so that I could get to the gym. It was a fairly early rise for me as I tend to often sleep in. As I walked out my door, the bus literally pulled up right in front of me – I love it when that happens. I walked onto the very crowded bus to see almost every single person on their crackberries or iphones. Seriously, who are you texting in the early morning? Only one person turned to look at me walk onto the bus. That person was an old man that looked around 65 or so. With a huge smile on his face he shouted to me, “Good Morning!” “Good morning to you,” I replied back. I took the last available seat on the bus. Lucky me. Another girl on came onto the bus and the old man smiled and greeted her as well. Startled and a little dumb struck, the girl managed to mumble a simple “morning” back to the man. The bus doors shut, and off we went. The old man, with a smile glued to his face, cleared his throat and started to tell the entire bus about the origin of the English language. Random topic for a morning conversation, yet intriguing. I learned that the English language is heavily influenced from the French language as well as Greek. This man was like a fricken encyclopedia. Everyone else on the bus blushed a little and continued to look down at their phones to avoid taking part in this presentation. I guess learning a little something from an old man was too much for their ego.
After a two minute presentation on the English language, the bus pulled up in front of the subway station. I was quite disappointed, as I was enjoying listening to a list of random facts from a stranger.Luckily, my encounter with him was far from over. We ended up taking the same subway, and what happens next is even better than random facts about language. The subway was even more packed than the bus, but I managed to find a standing area. Again, a lot of people were either on their phones or reading the paper. Not one person was engaging in conversation with another or observing their surroundings. The old man came onto the subway right behind me still with a smile on his face. The subway doors closed and off we went. Silence took over the subway until once again I heard a clearing of the throat from a person near by. It was of course, the old man preparing himself for yet another presentation, but this one was a little different. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh,” belted out the old man. Don’t think he stopped there because he was far from done at that point. He continued to sing various Christmas songs during the entire twenty minute subway ride. I looked around to everyone else on the subway to see people frantically search for their phones in their pocket so they can avoid this skeptical. I couldn’t believe it, well I could, but it never seizes to amaze me. One lady even pulled a newspaper out from under her seat and opened it in front of her face so she couldn’t be seem. However, the few children on the bus smiled and stared at the old man in delight and even started to sing with him. The children were having a blast but not as much as the old man was. He didn’t care at all that people were giving him weird looks or trying to completely ignore him. He sang as if he was performing in front of a sold out audience and always with a smile on his face. When the subway arrived at the old man’s stop, he got up looked at me and said, “At least I made a couple people smile today.” Then he winked and went on his way. This literally brought tears to my eyes. I actually had a hard time not crying.
So why am I telling you this story? The reason is I am frequently wondering what is happening to our society. When did we become so engaged in this fake world that we forgot to live in the moment and enjoy what’s happening in front of us. Enough with this damn concept of ‘I need to look important so I’m going to gaze completely into my cell phone and ignore everything else going on around me!‘ Why don’t we say hello to each other or good morning when we pass each other? Why are we so quick to judge one another or afraid of what other people will think of us? What I love about this story is how children are completely judgemental and enjoyed every second that the old man sang; as the rest of the people on the subway should have. He was a good singer, yet people were too worried about enjoying it because of what other people would think if they took part in this performance.
Everyday I reflect on what I’ve learned from my travels, and perhaps one of the most important thing I’ve learned is to live in the moment, and talk to strangers (sorry mom). I’ve learned to not judge people or places because you will be amazed at the people you will meet and the places you will end up if you keep an open mind.
Kristen Sarah is a full-time traveller, tiny home owner and adventure junkie. She has one of the leading YouTube travel channels and is the head honcha of award-winning travel and lifestyle website, Hopscotch the Globe.