Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Random Kindness in Paris

When you live in a big city, you sometimes lose faith in humanity. Homelessness, crime, unfriendly faces, stress...they can all conspire to bring down your spirits. But every once in a while we city-dwellers witness an event that gives us hope; restores our faith in the goodness of man (and woman!). Yesterday, in need of a morale boost, I was lucky enough to find myself in two such situations, both while riding the Paris Metro.

After French class at Sciences Po I hopped on the line 12 at Rue du Bac headed towards the line 1 transfer at Concorde. Two stops into the ride a man seated near me in the front of the train began foaming at the mouth, fell to the floor, and proceeded to go into convulsions. His companion sprang into action, and, much to my amazement, so did a number of nearby passengers. There was the guy who ran out to tell the train conductor to keep the train at the station, the two men who helped stabilize the man and tell him everything would be ok, and the woman who ran for additional help. Most of the passengers, myself included, exited the train or at least cleared the area to give them some room. After the shock of seeing such a scene had passed, I was left in awe of how complete strangers had acted with such speed, efficiency and kindness in order to help a fellow human being in need. I smiled.

Because of the emergency, the line 12 was stopped for an undetermined amount of time. No bother; I was within walking distance to Concorde. Like they are every day in the late afternoon, the line 1 trains were packed. As we pulled into Georges V I didn't think that anyone else would be able to squeeze in, but they did. There was an old, fragile-looking man with a cane who was left standing in the crowd when the doors closed. Noticing him standing there, a woman politely asked if he would like to sit down. His face lit up and he said yes. She asked a young college-aged man if he could give up his seat. The young man agreed without hesitation and even held out his hand to the old man to help him to the seat. The three of them struck up a conversation for the rest of their journey together. I smiled again.

Sometimes you wonder if anyone cares, if people think about others, if politeness still exists. Sometimes you can start to convince yourself that everyone in a city is only looking out for themselves, too consumed with their own lives to notice when others are in need. But sometimes the world lets you think otherwise. Sometimes, even while riding the Paris metro, your faith in humanity can be restored.


Melina said...

I loved that story. Really made me smile, and I see stuff like that happen quite often in Paris actually. It really warms my heart, as corny as that sounds. And as cold as it gets in Paris, some free warming is always nice :)

Nomadic Matt said...

awesome story. people are so nice.

check out this story i just wrote for a travel mag:

Tanya said...

Great article. This part especially hit home to me:

"On the road, you put your guard up to avoid bad situations, yet at the same time you want to be open and meet the locals. Interacting with locals is a constant struggle to find the right balance."

I feel that way all the time! Well put.