The Trip Can Teach Us Too

By now, most people know that I spend most of my time representing Wagner off campus, and travel time takes up a larger chunk of my day. During the work day, I keep my mind open to receive lessons, whether they be about life or learning a new skill in the workplace.  Most of the time when I am on the ferry or in transit, there is only one thing on my mind: getting home. This past week I realized that, sometimes, we can learn new things on our trip as well.

I try to keep my wits about me when travelling, but often times on the way home, I put my headphones on and tune out. This is a nice way to relax after the end of the day, but I usually don't get into many conversations with fellow passengers. One day last week, however, I decided to find somewhere different to sit and ran into a fellow classmate who was helping an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair and an older women who was with him. She was struggling to help the pair carry their array of items and also maneuver the awkward chair through the ferry crowd.  I recognized her immediately and was happy to help, but the conversation I had with the pair was nothing I expected. The gentlemen appeared to be homeless and had a rather unkempt appearance and the woman was nice enough, but there was nothing extraordinary about her. They invited me to sit with them, and the woman, named Martise, began to talk with me. She asked me what my Zodiac sign is, and then impressed me with her almost unlimited knowledge about the stars and astrological theories. I was surprised how much I was actually enjoying the conversation and then after we docked, she left and I turned my attention to the man, named Steve, who was chatting with my friend. I am not sure what I expected to talk about with him, but it was one of the most interesting conversations I had in a while.

Steve was brilliant and extremely well read, and we talked about music, religion, politics, history, literature, art, and so many other things that I stayed after with my friend to continue the discussion. Turns out he was a lawyer who also had a job as a pharmacist earlier in his life. Not once did he talk about how he was ashamed of his appearance or did he ask for anything from us. Even after offered food, he would not accept it, but he did want to continue talking. It made me think about how we shun some people based on their appearance. Here was a man who looked like someone almost everyone would avoid, but he was thoughtful, smart, and kind. He was homeless because of health issues and some misfortune that had befallen his family, but he still optimistically and enthusiastically learns and expands his knowledge. All he wanted was some company and to talk about his passions, and we were happy to do that. He talked about doing a documentary about some of his interests, and after we offered to help he talked excitedly about his ideas. After it was time for us to depart, we left him to spend the night in the ferry terminal, as he does often to avoid the cold.

While a seemingly simple story with nothing extraordinary about it, it really made me think about how I look at others and what is important in life. We all work day in and day out to expand our bank accounts and sometimes put blinders on to the rest of the world. I am going to try to take those blinders off and follow a quote that Martise told me on the boat: "Money comes and goes, but having a passion to wake up to in the morning is what will keep you going." It is so true, and I am glad that I chose to take the headphones off and look around a little bit that day... and I think I may do it a little more often. Turns out work isn't the only place where you can do some heavy thinking.

Author: Doug Donato

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