Buddha statue (Photo: Shutterstock)
- 4 min read

What disturbance?

Helping a distraught man on the train platform

It was six o’clock in the evening and the train platform was crowded.

I’d been to the convenience store in the station, having bought two sandwiches and a packet of juice for myself, and a small box of chocolate covered almonds for my daughter, who was waiting for me at home.

As I threaded my way through the crowd, people jostled for a small plot of real estate where they could stand quietly and wait for the train. Suddenly, I noticed a commotion, something beyond the usual pushing and shoving.

A man who appeared to be homeless was pushing people as they walked past him, telling them to mind their manners. I stopped to watch as a couple of young guys made fun of the man, and then I heard someone call the police on their cell phone, saying there was a violent man on the platform. I immediately felt bad for this guy, and I knew a confrontational meeting with the police and some time in jail was not what he really needed.

I walked directly towards the man, while not looking straight at him, and I could see him preparing to shove me aside. Just before reaching him, I made believe I tripped and I dropped my plastic bag, Talking to myself in English about being so clumsy, I bent over to pick up my bag, and when I stood up I was face to face with the gentleman, about one foot away.

Continuing on in my best English, I made a comment about the weather, while opening my bag to show the guy the goodies inside. Next, I motioned to a railing that was nearby, suggesting with my hands that we go stand over there. Well, not only did the homeless man get my message, but so did everyone else, as they made room for us to pass.

When we got to the railing, I pulled out a sandwich, opened the wrapping, and handed the man half, while immediately beginning to eat the other half. The man stuffed the sandwich into his mouth and wolfed it down in record time.

I opened the second sandwich, gave him half, and held onto the other half. Once again he stuffed the food into his mouth and quickly devoured it. I then gave him the remaining half, and noticed that he ate somewhat more slowly this time.

The police came along just as I was handing the man the packet of grape juice with a plastic straw sticking out. I could see they were a bit confused because there wasn’t anyone acting in a violent manner. I looked over at them and said in Japanese, “Everything is fine. The man is a friend of mine. He was hungry, and therefore a bit grumpy. Now that I’ve fed him everything in OK." The police looked perplexed. I smiled at them, bowed a tiny bit, and thanked them for having come. Not sure what else to do, they nodded their heads in return, looked around, and then slowly walked off.

My train was just arriving, and I motioned to the man that I needed to go. He bowed deeply, stuck out his hand and said “Thank you” in English.

I handed him the box of almonds and the empty plastic bag and quickly boarded the train. As the doors closed I turned to look back and there was my new friend, bobbing up and down, bowing and smiling broadly.

I smiled back at him, but there was no room for bowing in the crowded train.

As we pulled away from the platform, I wondered what my daughter would say when I told her she had already shared all her candy with someone she had never met.

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