Beijing Subway – Contagion of Courtesy

Courtesy – An Infection


               Beijing subway travel during rush hour is a numbing experience.  Within two weeks of morning rush hour travel I too have become personally desensitized to the discomforts of the train.  It is a torture you endure until you are released onto your destination.  I sense from the running of many on the street that the discomforts of the train are only the beginning of the daily grind and that the race to work may indicate indignant bosses carefully watching the clock.

               My habit at my starting point Shilihe Station is to get on the line at the bottom of the stairs.  At this door is a very nice guard trying to keep order as the masses push and pull when the train doors open.  Keeping people from pushing forward and blocking the doors so people can exit the train is his challenge.      

               There is no courtesy for those exiting the train.  The crowd of people waiting to get on is a formidable force.  As a group they are focused and their energy is combined and they will push each other to pack the train.  The individuals exiting are not as unified.  The first group, prepared to exit are organized and their group energy can overcome the energy of the entering group, but the stragglers trying to exit as individuals are often overwhelmed by the onslaught and swept backwards into the train car, even further back than before.  You can hear their cries of helplessness and despair.  The crowd is unmoved by their problem, they are determined to get on, no matter what the cost to others.

               One morning, with the usual scrum standing in front of the door I noticed a woman carrying her child, probably two years old, standing with others in the middle of the lines.  I asked the woman in the front of the line whether this woman with the child could get in the front of the line with her.  Women, the kindest of our species, understood the woman’s predicament and agreed.  She moved to the front of the line holding her child. 

               For the next moment our door was organized.  People were standing in two lines on each side of the door, not crowding the center, allowing people to exit.  Did the act of courtesy remind them of their humanity?  Did, for that moment, they remember what their parents taught.

               I hope, for one moment they stopped and thought.  I hope they pass it on.     :    Expand your mind.  Stretch your body.             

The Power of Hello – A brief story about a special person

Universal Language
Universal Language

The Power of “Hello”

               Joann is quite a unique person, having agreed to this journey along the silk Road, sharing my vision and accepting my assurances as sufficient to embark.   Still, as a reasonable person she began with some concern.  It had not passed in Urumqi, and by Kuqa she had gained some confidence that the plans were working.  Hotels, while not perfect were more than adequate, we were finding restaurants, and the sights were more than we had imagined. 

               JoAnn began to say “Hello” to everyone she saw.  The joy in her bright and cherry voice was unmistakable to everyone.   Whether “Hello” was a word was less material than the tone.  Nearly everyone, responded in kind.  “Hello,” “Ni Hao,” “Hi,” or just a wave were responses from startled Chinese.  This is not the Chinese custom, accosting people on the street, but JoAnn was able to make friends, with a voice and a gesture that is universal.

               Richard the academic, has studied Chinese for four years while JoAnn has a vocabulary of four words, mostly where is the bathroom, and can you bring me a napkin.  Yet, her happiness and warmth projects to all humans and she communicates to the Chinese far better than I, with all my knowledge.  We are now on a train from Lanzhou to Tianshui and have been travelling in China for twenty days and Joann has spread her joy and friendship, her warmth for everyone, through western China.      :     Expand your mind.  Stretch your body.