On my early morning ride on the #4 train the other morning, a young woman in Muslim garb, including a hijab covering her head, enters the train at Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn and stands by the door. She’s holding a cup of coffee. At the next stop, Atlantic Avenue, the door is closing and a big, blue slippered foot with a dirty white sock or gauze on it, is placed between the closing doors, preventing the train doors from closing. A big, dirty brown homeless male who looks like the Thing enters the train. He has on a dingy, patterned pair of pajamas, a dark sweat shirt, and a brown woolen hat with New York emblazoned on it on his head. He doesn’t smell as some homeless people smell, but immediately two young Black women get up from their seats and move towards the middle of the car. The homeless man slides into the seat they’ve vacated. Another Black woman stays seated at the opposite end of the seat. There is room for two more people. The Muslim woman offers the homeless male her coffee. He takes it, nods his head in acknowledgment. She then reaches into her pocket and withdraws a health bar snack and offers it to him. He declines, but acknowledges the offer. He takes off his hat and rubs, scratches his head. The young woman sits down next to him, and once again offers him the health bar snack, which he again declines. By now he’s finished his coffee. He drops the cup on the floor. The train makes its way through the stygian darkness. At the Brooklyn Bridge stop, the young woman rises to exit. The homeless man extends a big swollen hand. She takes it, and they exchange a gentle handshake. I am moved by her actions, her humanity, her fearlessness in facing someone, some “Thing” to others, that we encounter every day, on the streets, in the subterranean subway system, and I feel hopeful. I have noted that not once, since he’s entered the train, has she recoiled from him.
After the young Muslim woman exits the train, the two spots near the homeless man remains vacant until he gets off at 125th Street.
This has been a powerful moment; it makes me think about something I have been reading about, about transformative leadership. In watching this young woman, I saw leadership traits. For the rest of the day this young woman is on my mind, and I think it’ll people like her that will make America great again.