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The girls went back to school Monday. And the good news is that I got them there. But it wasn't exactly smooth. After dropping off Big Girl on the Upper East, Middle and I hopped on the 96th Street Crosstown Bus to head to Preschool. Once on the bus, I swiped my Metrocard and learned that it was empty. I fumbled around my bag and pockets looking for another one. Nope. Asked the driver if I could give him a few dollars and he said no, that I'd have to ask someone for change. My little girl asked what was going on. Mommy is a mess, I wanted to say, but didn't. Instead, I clutched her hand and flashed that everything-will-be-fine smile.

I looked around at the people on the bus. I fished three dollar bills from my wallet, folded them in half. I held them toward a pleasant-seeming middle-aged woman. Can I give you this and use your Metrocard? She refused the money and handed me her card. I swiped. As fate would have it, her card was empty too. She saw this and then proceeded to dump her purse on her lap, looking for change. For me. She didn't have enough and I thanked her and told her I appreciated her trying to help. Because I did. What a nice lady.

I asked a few more people. No dice. Everyone was very responsive, but no one had change or a card I could use. And it was now our stop to get off. I had a fleeting instinct to sneak off the back of the bus and pretend none of this happened, but I didn't. I held my babe's hand and I walked up to the driver. I asked a few people and no one had change. Can I please give you this? I waved those three dollars at him. But he didn't take them.

Instead he smiled. He not only smiled, but he smiled big. And he fixed me with his eyes, kind eyes, tired eyes. Don't worry about it, he said. I will see you tomorrow. Go on.

And I did. I went on. Off, actually. But before I did, I paused and looked at him, really looked at him, this good man driving this big bus, and I said it, Thank you so much.

And as my girl and I walked that half block to school, I said something to her. That was a very nice man. Very nice. Mommy didn't have a good card and he said it was okay.

She smiled. And so did I. And then we walked into school and she flitted off into a sea of friends, into a new year. And I came away from all of this, this utterly un-smooth morning moment lamenting my less-than-graceful reentry to real life, but also feeling wild sense of optimism about this city and this world. People can be really wonderful.

Yes, even New Yorkers.

Any recent glimpses of such goodness in your own life?

 

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