It is obvious during rush hour on London’s underground that the pandemic is just another memory lost in its subterranean tunnels. The only thing that keeps the public away from the underground now are tube strikes.
The underground is busy. I had resigned myself to standing for the journey to Southall from Tottenham Court Road tube station during rush hour when boarding the newly opened Elizabeth line. To my surprise, as I prepared to reach the bar to steady myself for the journey, a young man offered his seat to me. He looked about seventeen years of age. He stood up and beckoned me to sit down pointing at the seat he had just made vacant. I was surprised for a number of reasons, but at the foremost of my mind, why me!
I first looked around thinking he must be referring to someone else. Cannot be me. Do I look that old?
He looked at me again and insisted. I was about to say “I am alright thank you, I am not that old”, but realised this was a churlish response to what after all was a thoughtful gesture.
I convinced myself it must be my unkempt greying beard and hair (not a lot there though) that gave the appearance of age. I left it at that, declined the kind offer with a huge smile.
Next tube station was Bond Street and the young man, with a big smile, again offered his seat to me. I happily accepted this second offer as I could see he was getting ready to leave at this station. Nothing to do with age!
An elderly Asian couple then boarded the carriage. A woman who appeared to be in her 20s and sitting next to me, a turbaned man in his 30s who was sitting across from me, both offered their seats to the elderly couple.
I could see the elderly couple were taken aback by the gesture and were profusely thankful. They were not used to such considerate behaviour. You could tell they were touched and thanked everybody.
Then a young man who was sitting on the other side to me, as if wanting to be part of these considerate gestures, offered his seat to the young woman who had just offered her seat to the elderly couple.
At this point we all laughed in unison. Something wonderful had just taken place that broke the ice of alienation usually experienced in tube carriages filled with people who try hard to avoid any sort of connection.
The young person who first offered his seat to me, who had by this time left the train did not get to witness what his gesture had started but it made my day, and no doubt it did the same for the others. The unassuming young man who had started this was not present to witness what he had left behind. I pondered on this.
People are nice, they want to do good, they want to look after each other, they want to feel connected and have a sense of connection and a shared experience that is joyful. He had no idea what he left behind but whatever it was, it connected us for a moment. That connection was pregnant with reverence and joy that still remains with me. Little things matter and what we leave behind makes a difference.
The last Poulstone full blog was written three years ago on 23 March 2020. It was written when the first lock down was announced and we had to cancel many retreats. I said in that blog, see you on the either side. How were we to know the other side would take so long to get to and once there, if there, filled with so much uncertainty.
Poulstone wakes up from the pandemic years realising there is a lot of work to do out there but has found direction in reverence, connection, joy and what we leave behind.
Little things matter.
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5 March 2023
Rajesh & Divya