Kind Stranger This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 6, 2012
The cold air nipped my face at the train station that early morning. Half asleep, I stared into the distance, watching for the train to take me to my class in Boston. The world was serene as the sun rose; pedestrians were few and kept to themselves, minding their steaming cups of coffee.

The distant sound of the train startled me. Reaching into my pocket, my numb hand searched for the $20 bill to pay my fare. As the train approached I became impatient; the pocket was empty. Frantically, I searched through my bag. Leaning my head on my hand, I was in utter despair. I sat on a frigid bench. Unless the money dropped from the sky, I’d be stuck there for eight hours. I felt so stupid.

“What’s the matter?” a rough voice asked. A short, elderly man stood before me.

“Oh, nothing. I’ll be all right,” I mumbled, trying to push back the despair.

“Did you forget your money, kid-o?” he asked.

“Well, yeah – sort of. It was really stupid of me, and now I’m stuck here. I’m going to miss my math class, and the train is leaving.”

“Calm yourself. Here,” he said. “Use this.”

The man held a $20 bill. I looked up, amazed. People just don’t do that anymore. Everyone worries about their own problems, rarely stopping to think about others, especially teenage strangers. But there he stood, an elderly man in the middle of a train station, handing me money.

“Thank you, but no, I can’t.”

“I’m not asking you what you can and can’t do, just take the money or you’ll miss your train!”

“Well …”

“None of that – go!” the man said, pushing me toward the train. I bought a round-trip ticket and attempted to give him the change.

“Keep it, you need some spending money.” I did not know what to say – a million thoughts raced through my mind, yet I stood silently.

“Thank you so much – this is really amazing. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it,” I babbled. He just stood there in the stairway of the train.

For the train ride I was silent. I was overwhelmed, seeing the world through changed eyes. That man made a difference with such a simple act.

A week later I was at the train station again, with an extra $20 just in case I saw the man. And there he was. I wasn’t sure it was the right person, but intuition pulled me toward him. When he saw me coming, I saw tears in his eyes. I flashed a shy smile.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said. “I believe I owe you this,” and handed him the $20. The man opened his mouth to say he didn’t need to be paid back, but I did not let him speak. “No, I insist, sir, that you take this.” I pressed the money into his hand. “I’d feel bad otherwise.” He smiled.

“Just remember to do the same for someone in your shoes someday. You have a good day, kid-o,” he said.

I smiled, content. The system worked that day, the system of trust.

The elderly man is my hero. I see him at the train station when I’m on the inbound track, and we never fail to flash a smile at each other. For many, heroes are famous, but my hero is a giving stranger who taught me a lesson in life. I will never forget his kindness.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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WildyMary said...
Apr. 3, 2013 at 7:45 pm
Great I even saw this story in my STAAR test today! :D
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