On the 7. It's 6:30, getting towards 7pm. The rear-view mirror is a mosaic of faces and lives, people ready to go home. I see younger Asian woman, 30s, dressed in generic dark clothing, nothing fancy, smiling at my "here we go" announcements. A red-faced man in construction clothing steps on through the back door at Maynard, recognizing me, the driver way up there, and shoots me a big wave, which I enthusiastically return. Good to have friends on board. The Asian woman smiles wide at this, her and others lighting up the place like a beacon. She comes up to express her pleasure at being here, sharing in this positive space: "I really like you!" Her English is limited, but the enthusiasm is real. An occasional regular, "Big Guy," with long dreads (whom you might remember from this trip), pats me on the shoulder. I see the great Charles F. driving the 7 on the other side. I give him the "raise the roof" gesture. He has a bone-crushing handshake and a smile for everyone.
The elderly lady with the wheelchair rings the bell, saying "wheelchair getting off!" As she rolls forward to the lift, I teasingly tell her, "Now, you don't haaave to leave me now-" she laughs, and I see the waiting teenagers outside watching me with smiling eyes- "yeah, you could hang around for a while, maybe ride a couple round trips..." She's not convinced, even when I tell her the night is young, but she's chuckling. That's the important part. Positive energy, drifting into the ether at Andover Street.
I help a lost Chinese grandmother, excited mostly at the chance to try out my Mandarin. I don't have too many Chinese grandmother friends. I'm inwardly giddy when she can actually understand some of my amazingly bad pronunciation.
Plumber Dave gets on at 5th with his bicycle, a huge grin enlivening his gaunt form. "Shit, man," he beams, "it just makes my day to see you drive up! Smilin' every single time!" He's always hard on himself, blames himself for his divorce and other life problems, but he gets such energy out of being here. We always end up talking about the value of kindness, of taking the effort to care.
Dave: "When you just take a moment to talk to someone-"
"Exactly, give the time of day, give 'em a little hand,"
"That might be the only help they've-"
"-had all day. We all need a little bit a-"
"The only positive gesture," I say, as we talk over each other in agreement;
"I know it sounds corny as all get out," he says, echoing a thought I often have, "but it's all true."
And I agree- it can sound corny. It sounds like Sesame Street. But it's core. Imbuing one's actions with truth, considering the thoughts and dreams of those outside yourself- Disney and the Teletubbies only scratch the surface. It's larger than that. Speaking truth to the power of the downward pull.
Out here, in the darker corners of evolving, fractured, and ever-progressing lives, this attitude is needed. I tend not to share this with too many people (so don't tell anyone!), but I define optimism as 'being comfortable looking at truth, even when it's negative.' To be able to stare it in the face without wavering in one's worldview, and maybe even offer some incremental kindness; the restorative power of which can easily, and often does, defy description.
I need to make something clear regarding my last few posts: I'm continuing to have a great time. I don't want them to read as a loss of something. To me, the fights and verbal assaults are excellent, positive incidents that made for great days- partly because I feel I did the best I could, but more importantly, because kindness ended up piercing through in the conclusion of those events. I am somehow completely unable to get over people being nice to each other.
Plumber Dave will often follow my cue, offering to help those sitting around him, and his enthusiasm shines through the years- he isn't a broken man in his late 50s with no family and a two hour commute. He has the excitement at the possibility of goodness we incorrectly associate with innocent children. Everyone has glimmers of that in them, be it a little or a lot. He makes the most of his time with others, feeds off my energy to make it his own, making all things new again. They say the eyes are the windows of the soul; with Dave, it's his smile.