the lost man chronicles
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true grit

As I passed through the pedestrian tunnel entre PA and the subway this morning on my way to work, I realized that I have absolutely nothing to bitch about.

For my suffering is balderdash in comparison to that of others—others who clearly bear their troubles gracefully, and with admirable tenacity.

As I walked through the turnstile, I noticed a group of three indigenous-looking South or Central American women, huddled together under a hanging sign. The youngest one was pointing at it and making wide hand gestures to an older woman who was standing smiling. I realized that it was some sort of sign language, because neither of them spoke a word. Although I had studied ASL myself at one time, it was not anything I recognized and with the muttering, almost seemed a bit rustic in an ad-hoc sort a way. What came across most poignantly for me though were the smiles of these women who were communicating with each other. There was nothing sad about this scene whatsoever, despite the underlying morose inference one could easily imagine otherwise.

Next I came upon Mitu ßuioc, a Romanian accordionist I pass every morning that I have to walk through this underground passage. I happen to know his name because I am trying to hire him for the Holiday Party I am organizing. Only problem is that I work for a highly conservative behemoth that parties by the books, and Mitu is one of those guys, a highly-talented immigrant without papers, that must be compensated with a little exchange under the table. With all the accounting scandals and the subsequent SEC squeezing, this little deal will require some creative wrangling on my part.

Regardless, after watching the woman and seeing this rather short guy squeezing his box rather joyfully, it began to occur to me that these people were paragons of pertinacity, despite their imposition as work-horses in the mighty metropolis.

The final exemplar that clinched this insight for me was a black grungily-dressed man who stood hunched over holding a cardboard sign with swirls of charcoal-colored scrawl in his left hand. As two people from opposite directions each handed him a dollar, I noticed that he was missing his right hand. But despite the handicap, he smiled brightly and said, “Thank you” with a demure nod and gut-wrenching sincerity.

As I got onto the train I thought about how these three people are struggling to thrive, if not merely survive in the City, and yet they all succeed in doing so with a smile that conveys their belief that indeed there will always be a tomorrow.

It truly impressed me that not a shred or shard or sherd of sorrow showed upon their tired and weathered faces. There were no traces of having to stand alone for ten hours or scrub scummy toilets for three, or simply having to beg, at times hopelessly, if only for just enough change to buy a bagel and cup of coffee from the deli around the corner from the shelter.

That is courage to me, and this is why I am lucky and only half-as-brave when I have to fight convention or disbelief or the grief that others give me when I vie to accomplish what I love to do.

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