Life moves fast in general but I’ve never seen life move as fast as it does in New York, New York. It seems like so much is always going on and everybody is in a huge rush to get… well, nowhere in particular. I used to love walking around Times Square (sometimes I still do) and try to point out all of the tourists. You know the tourists because they are walking slowly with their heads up and taking everything in. The locals are the ones walking really fast and swerving through the traffic on the sidewalks. A couple of years ago, the city put in what I can only describe as big red stairs or bleachers in the middle of Times Square. I don’t know what they are there for but they are almost always packed with people sitting on them. I once made a bet with a friend that we wouldn’t find a single New Yorker on the stairs and I was right. We asked every single person and found people from all over Europe, Canada, United States and Asia but not a single New Yorker. In fact, the closest we got to a New Yorker was a couple from New Jersey who were out on a date, and they were about 50 feet away from the stairs.
When life is moving that fast, it is easy to forget about the people around us and what life is like for them. When walking into a coffee shop, we can’t help but get frustrated when the service is too slow or when somebody else is in a rush and tries to get in front of us.
A story that happened in New York City in 2008 just came up in Facebook feed this morning and I felt that I should share it. Julio Diaz, a social worker in New York takes the subway home from work every day but gets off a stop before his home so that he can eat at his favorite diner. One day as he was getting off the subway, a teenager pulled a knife on him and asked him for his wallet. Julio gave it over but while the teenager was running away, Julio did something unexpected. He called to the teenager “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.” When the puzzled teenager slowly came back, Diaz continued “if you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me … hey, you’re more than welcome.”
The teenager and Diaz went to the diner and were greeted by the manager, waiter and even the dishwasher. The teenager was shocked at how nice Diaz was to everyone, especially the dishwasher. He was taught that people were supposed to be nice to each other but never thought that people actually were, especially to dishwashers.
At the end of the meal, the obviously touched teenager gave Diaz back his wallet and also gave him the knife he used to mug him.
Julio Diaz is obviously an exceptional person and we can learn a lot from him. A kind gesture can go a long way, even to someone who just mugged you. As a temp worker, even if you are given a menial job and your co-workers or boss treat you badly, treating them well can change their attitude and turn them into friends or at least people that you may enjoy working with. And when you take a temp job at the top of the ladder, remember the dishwashers and treat them the way you would want to be treated in that position. One person can change someone’s world.