Returning from a meeting, I wait on the C-train platform for the next train to arrive. It is mid-day. Busy. Lots of people grabbing a train for the cross-town ride.
A train pulls in, the doors open and everyone steps aside to let the passengers exit.
At the tail end, a woman walks towards the open doors, passes two men standing aside at the doors inside the train. She doesn’t hesitate. She doesn’t stop. She punches the man closest to the open doors in the stomach and walks away.
It is not a gentle, ‘nice to see you buddy’, kind of punch.
It is violent. Mean. Gut-wrenching.
Those of us who witness the attack, take a collective breath in. We are surprised. Shocked. Stunned. By the time we realize what has happened, the woman is long gone. The man who was punched is laughing. Albeit nervously, but he is laughing with his friend.
“Do you know her?” his friend asks.
We are all on the train now. The doors are closed and the train is moving to the next station.
“Never saw her before in my life,” the man who was punched replies.
The two men chat with a third man, a stranger who got on behind me. They are laughing. Joking. Making light of what just happened.
I stand and watch and listen and feel slightly sick to my stomach. It wasn’t funny. It was confusing. Distressing. Sad.
I wonder if the woman who did it had any idea of what she was doing. When I saw her briefly, just before she punched the man, she was muttering to herself. I wonder if she had compromised mental capacities. I wonder if she possibly had a hatred of Asian looking men. Both men have Asian looks. The man who was punched had a beard. Perhaps that was a trigger for her.
Regardless of what caused it, none of it makes it right. I am disturbed. And grateful. Grateful these men were laughing, and hadn’t angrily run after her or stood on the train and cursed and yelled expletives to her departing back.
One of the men jokingly says to the stranger, “So this is how you treat Montrealers in Calgary?”
“No it’s not,” the stranger states. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Neither had I. Except, I have. I had forgotten. It was a young girl walking out of a building at a youth facility. I was there for a meeting. Our paths crossed just as I was entering. She grabbed my arm, kicked my shin and dug her nails into my hand.
I had never met her before.
At the time, I was taken aback. Startled. I gently asked her to please let go of my hand and arm. She did, but not before telling me I couldn’t go in the building.
I have to, I told her. I have a meeting.
Is it about me? she asked.
No. It’s about me.
That seemed to satisfy her and she walked away.
And just as I did then, I wonder now about hatred. Violence. Abuse.
What had that woman experienced in her life to make it okay to lash out the way she did? What had she not experienced?
Love? Kindness? Consideration? Gentleness?
What had she not been given to cause her to think punching a stranger in the stomach would lead to anything good?
Guidance? Safety? Security? Ease of being in this world?
As I stand at the doors waiting for the train to stop at my station, I smile at the man who was punched and say, “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
“It’s okay” he replies. “I don’t think she even knew what she was doing.”
Except, she did know what a punch was. She did know how to lash out.
And I wonder again if she’s ever known the beauty of Love embracing her in kindness and gentleness. I wonder if she ever had the grace of feeling safe, secure, like she belonged in a world where hatred, violence, fear were not the way.
And I wonder how she will ever know the difference if she never stops doing what she’s doing to create more of what she’s doing now.
I wonder how any of us will if we don’t stop using hatred as a weapon and fear as our defense against Love.