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"Little Things Are Big" (L1), by Jesús Colón

Author: Jesús Colón

“I was thinking; sometimes one thing happens and changes your life, how you look at things and how you look at yourself.

I remember one particular time. It was when? 1955 or 1956...a long time ago. It was a very late night. I had to work late that night. It was after midnight and I had to ride the train home to Brooklyn.

This lady got on to the subway at 34th and Penn Station. She looked a nice, was white and in her early twenties.

I am still trying to remember how she entered the subway. She had a baby on her right arm, a small suitcase in her left hand, and two children a boy and a girl, 3 and 5 years old following her.

At Nevins Street, Brooklyn, I saw her preparing to get off at the next station, Atlantic Avenue. She and I needed to get off at that same station. She had a lot to carry; two small children, a baby, and a suitcase in her hand. Should I try to help her? Should I take the boy and girl’s hand and walk them to the stairs?

Courtesy is a characteristic of the Puerto Rican people. And here I was, a Puerto Rican, watching a white lady with a baby in her arm, a small suitcase in her hand, and two white children, in need of help.

But how could I, a Negro and a Puerto Rican approach this white lady? What would she say? What would be the white lady’s first reaction? Would she say: Yes, of course, you may help me. Or would she think that I was trying to be too familiar with her? Or would she have worse thoughts? What would I do if she screamed if I tried to help her?

I hesitated for a long time. I was unsure about what I should do. I just walked passed the lady. It was like I did not see her. It was as if I was insensitive to her need. I was like a rude animal walking on two legs, I just continued walking and then running, passing by the long subway platform. I climbed the long steps and reached the street above. The cold air hit my warm face.

Maybe the lady was not prejudiced. If you were not that prejudiced, I failed you, dear lady. I failed you too children. I failed myself. you, lady, I failed you, children, and I failed myself.

I buried my courtesy early on Memorial Day morning. But here is a promise I make to myself here and now; if I every face an occasion like that again, I am going to offer my help regardless of how the other person receives my offer. Then, I will have my courtesy with me again.”

DMU Timestamp: September 17, 2018 17:21

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