Sunday, April 11, 2010


Last night’s, late night, NYC departure brought lessons of love, acceptance and understanding. 

It began at our first Suicide Awareness Prevention Fair (SAPF) committee meeting, followed by a robust, round table dinner. 

Afterwards, I am accompanied back to the train station where, after a nightcap at my favorite Grand Central haunt, I join a compartment full of heavy-eyed, bobble headed strangers on the New Haven, Connecticut line. 

Crouched solo in the back tier of badly weathered seats, I struggle to stay awake and reflect on the microcapsule of brightly kindred souls that empowered my evening. 

Two rows ahead, a woman dressed in pink polka dots is tucked into a tight ball, fast asleep.  Her hair is long and lacquered.  Her skirt is short and teased.  Red, fingerless, opera length wool woven gloves, chunky black boots, and non symmetrical face piercings round out her punked out appearance. 

Behind me, wild bouts of gaiety spill in from the caboose. It is William’s 21st birthday and the party is in full swing. 

Some rail riders are annoyed, others are mildly amused. I welcome the ruckus - knowing the celebration of life will curb my urge to snooze.

When the train halts at 125th Street, our first stop along the way, two beefy conductors enter - one from each side, and abruptly instruct a rider to exit the train IMMEDIATELY, or spend the night in jail. 

The empty pocket passenger pleads his case to deaf ears – no one cares that he has lost his ticket and that his only desire is to go home. 

The rider’s refusal to leave, clashes with the conductors threats. It is a “shoot um up” western showdown in the center stage of a jammed tight, late night, commuter train. 

With no clear winner, the conductors exit in unison leaving the late night passengers with nothing to do but wait.

Instinctively, I reach deep into my purse and remember I have no cash. 

Across the aisle and to my right sits a thirty-something, hip and trendy professional in a trim tailored suit, crisp, button down shirt and polished loafers.  Alert and poised, he clutched his Tumi brief case with both hands and gazes apathetically out the window. I am certain HE will not get involved. 

Life is full of wonderful things IF you can afford them. 

No money, no ride. 
No money, no fancy bag or polished shoes. 
No money, no food. 
No money, no way home. 
No money, no way out. 

After several minutes the compartment doors lock tight and the clack of the track continues. We are all...held hostage.

Caged and enraged, the rider paces the narrow pathway of the cabins car.   He yanks on the door handle, slams his fist against the tempered glass.

“Mother fucker, mother fucker!” yells the rider.

Over a crackled speakers, the conductor announces “5 more minutes!”

Everyone looks down. No one makes a sound until the “antelope” tone of incoming text alerts passengers to the woman, alone, in the back row. 

It is my laid back husband’s - smart, cell phone pecking, “evrythg ok?”

He has intuitively tuning into my uncomfortable ride. 

“Mother FUCKER, MOTHER FUCKER!!!” yells the rider. 

I am certain he is looking at me. 

When the train stops, two burly, plain clothed cops burst in and, with guns drawn, demand the “douche bag” rise from his seat. 

An elbow to his back and a head bunt from the side of a thick, black pistol, propel the rider from the train. 

No one cheers.

I lift my eyes in time to see the lost rider stumble to unfamiliar ground.

I am a coward. We are all cowards.

Why didn’t we choose to help? 

What if I stood up and asked everyone to chip in and help pay his fair? 

What lasting effect would it have had - on the rider, on the passengers, on myself?

What if the rider was a: 

1. Woman
2. Elderly
3. Young
4. Disabled

Would it have mattered if he was white, black, Spanish, or Asian? 

What about the way he was dressed?

What would have prompted someone to get involved? 


Not only didn’t we help, we looked away. 

Instead of engaging our hearts - we hid.

Since my son’s death, I have deliberately placed myself on a path of enlightenment. 

I believe we create our own reality and that, no matter how painful, every life experience is an opportunity for growth.

We, as human beings, need to reach out to ALL those who are suffering. 

Right NOW

At this moment

OPEN your heart 

GIVE freely




  1. I agree whole heartedly with the message of this post. I am constantly on a path of forgiveness and choosing to see that I am not separate from God. The lessons you need to learn are right in front of you, and it looks like you are tuning into them. I hope you continue to share your spiritual journey, I will be reading.

  2. I hope the rider is okay. I am really sad for him!

  3. Thanks for the compliment. I enjoyed reading your blog. I can't imagine having gone through what you have and remaining so strong. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What a wonderful reminder to us all! This story was so touching. We all come across situations in which we can make a difference every day.

  5. Good story, Shannon. Just what people need to make them think...

  6. It's a damn good question... that is, what holds one back in a time like that. BUT I know it happens... and I would have prolly done the same as you, INCLUDING feeling so very bad about it after.

  7. ...and "nobody cheered" is a powerful line.
    what would Buddha have done? To be witness is sometimes all we can do.

    hard line to draw whether or not to get involved with someone else s drama.

  8. You guys are GREAT!!! its a very good conversation. I have deliberately not told you anything about the riders appearance.

    In fairness, did the conductors know the rider? had he done this before? contrast... Mr. Cooked (the husband) informed me that guys pull this all the time - during the commute home. And yet, no one head butts them and tosses them from the train. WHY NOT?

  9. As a writer, you choose your words very carefully. This story is a study in contrasts. If this passenger had chosen different words, there might not have been such reluctance to help him...
    words...they are so very powerful.


  10. Lovely writing. Had I the cash on me, I would have bought the rider a ticket. I'm actually kind of bad about that kind of thing. I have often given money to strangers who've approached me. Sometimes I feel really good about it, and other times I feel as if my good nature and belief in people despite their circumstances allows them to take advantage of me. I've seen people just stand by though, and allow someone less fortunate be put out on the street or go hungry, and I suppose I prefer to be the type who is overgenerous instead.

  11. Very moving post, My brother use to pull this on the lightrail here in portland. I once had a friend tell me she saw him on there looking like hell...but she did nothing...said nothing to him.
    My brother was an IV drug user.
    One night when in recovery he reached out for help to someone...who turned their back...reached out again to a group of people at an AA meeting...who did nothing...
    He died that night 7 years ago.
    Your Blog is doing great work opening eyes and hearts. Freaky love to you.

  12. Michelle - I never again want to be that person who looks away. addiction and depression are a disease. we would not turn our back, or judge someone who is strugging with cancer. Your brother fought a lonely battle.

    Monkey love, hope and hugs to you

  13. Thank you juicebox and MM for the writing complements - I am still not happy with pace of the story - the tweaking continues! In the perfect world I would hold onto a post for a week before posting, but, like a child, I grow impatient with each passing minute.

    to everyone....your feedback is very, very helpful. THANK YOU :)

    I'm trying not to focus, but currently I'm at 98 followers! (curious who the next 2 will be)

  14. Excellent, Shannonkennedy - we have all been there, no doubt!

  15. What an interesting experience that thankful led to a realization of how to do it better next time. I keep asking myself, what would I have done? I think it's tough when you're someone who's nice and helpful. Some people are taking advantage of that and in a world where we must protect ourselves, it's tough to know the difference between genuine need, or "they need to learn a lesson".

    You have a lovely voice that is easy to ready. Thank so much for stopping by my blog as well.

  16. Really interesting post. I find your blog so interesting...glad I stopped by.
    Love the eye with the heart.


Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison