Dear PoP – Pleasant Story About Teens in the Metro System

Photo from PoPville flickr user Jess J

“Dear PoP,

I read with horror the reader account of Saturday’s brawl on the metro. I wanted to share the below story, not to attempt to diminish the extremely troubling aspects of that incident, but rather for some balance as we consider our city and the folks who call it home.

As I was walking along the red line platform at a crowded Gallery Place station last night, I noticed a small cluster of folks standing at the base of an escalator. One of them called out to me. He was one of four or five teenagers huddled around a mid-30’s blind man. It quickly became apparent that the man was trying to get to MLK Library. But he was disoriented, and the kids themselves were confused about which of the three station exits would be best for him to take. After I consulted with them, we realized that he should proceed up the escalator directly in front of him. One of the teenagers imparted this information to him and got him pointed in the right direction.. This is where I thought the story would end. But as the disabled gentleman took his first steps forward, he stumbled and seemed no less confident than before. Without hesitation, one of the kids put a comforting hand on his back. Another said “We got you.” And then, I watched in awe, as the entire group selflessly detoured in order to escort him all the way to his destination.

The teenagers’ clothes, hairstyles and speech patterns could all be fairly described as “urban.” But their behavior showed that the stereotypes we sometimes accept don’t always capture our common, simple humanity. I want to publicly thank those kids for reminding me why I love living in the urban core of our city.”

22 Comment

  • Love. It.

  • Thanks for posting this. hopefully we see the same amount of responses for the good as we do for the bad.

  • Going around town with my 3 year old, I find most of the youth are polite and respectful if you offer the same to them. 7 years in Columbia heights/Petworth and havent had a really unpleasant situation.

    You get the rare knucklehead now and again, but that is just youth.

  • This is almost as special as an after school special on the USA network.

  • just to piggyback on this nice story:

    A friend from London came to visit over the fall, and with the nice weather, I thought biking would be the best way to show her around this fair city. At around Eastern Market, we crash, and I hurt my ankle. We decide to take the metro (it was the weekend!) back to CH, but the elevators were down. So we get on the escalator behind everyone else, or so we think. I’m hurting, so I’m just holding the top of the bike, letting it rest on the stairs, although it’s at a weird, steep angle.

    Then I hear these steps running up behind me, I turn to see 2 teen boys running up the escalator. I start to get nervous – I’m a smallish girl and I couldn’t exactly get out of the way – but instead of hassling me, they grabbed my bike and held it up so it wouldn’t be at such a steep angle. I humbly thanked them as they held my bike up the rest of the way.

    I know, I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge those kids, but when 2 guys are running up behind you, even if they’re young, a girl gets nervous. So when they do something nice instead, even if it’s something little, it both challenged my stereotypes (thereby making me more aware of them) and generally made my day 🙂

  • That’s great, nice to hear. But since when does de minimis behavior solicit praise. I’m glad they did what being a human being demands, but when that becomes exceptional, we have a problem. Wolves also care for their wounded. And yes, I’m being cynical, but this story belies the point it is supposed to make.

    • The puppies have been officially kicked. Back to work for me.

    • buddy, this is a city.

      people of all stripes have a tendency to mind their own business.

      running down an escalator to help somebody faster in an urban environment is worthy of a moment of appreciation.

      also, your analogy needs help: wolves care for “their” wounded. wolves don’t run down escalators to help strangers with bikes.

  • Great story! Thanks for sharing.

  • houseintherear

    Yep, no group of people can be placed into a single behavioral category, we know.

    Nice story, though.

  • I got tears in my eyes when I read this!

    To counter realist, I don’t think the average person would have helped to the extend that these teens did. I think the average person would have told the man some directions and then hurried off to catch their train.

  • Agree with Riley – most people would have given the directions and headed in their merry direction.

    This is awesome! It’s nice to hear of these things happening in our city, especially when the terrible things seem to grab our attention more often.

  • Thanks for the posting! Gallery Place is often crowded so good to know there are some good people among the crowd.

  • Thanks for the story! I love living and working in DC and travel exclusively by public transportation. Every day in this city there are displays of random kindnesses that never make the news. It is super nice to be here on weekends and evenings when we have it to ourselves after the commuters go home.

  • Nice story, it sounds like the writer might want to take a minute to examine their own sterotypes about “urban” youth.

  • More stories like this please.

  • Okay, Sam, here’s one…

    A few years back, I was living in a friend’s house at 19th and Lamont. On Halloween, I watched his niece go off trick or treating with her parents while I stayed on the porch to hand out candy. The Mount Pleasant scene is huge, and too soon I was out of candy. More than one set of pre-teen and teenage treaters came up and, disappointed with my lack of candy, gave me a dose of attitude.

    Soon, Lily comes back from her rounds, and wants to help me hand out candy. I told her we were out, so she starts giving out her OWN candy to the kids. I was amazed at her generosity, at age 5, but soon all her candy is gone, too.

    One group after another comes by (even though we were out of candy we sat there to watch the treaters come and go), some of whom were surly when I broke the bad news that we were broke.

    So, then this one pair of kids comes up, a 15 year old and his slightly younger brother. I tell them “no candy anymore,” and got another minor dose of attitude. I then said, “look I ran out a while back, and then Lily here gave out all HER candy, so we’re sorry!”

    Silently, the boys walked down the steps, and headed to the next house. Suddenly, they stopped, and spoke a few words together that I couldn’t hear. Then they turned around, came back up our steps and handed over every last bit of their candy, filling our bowl to the top.

    “Now she can give out some more candy,” they said as they left, obviously aware that Lily loved giving it out as much as she loved collecting it.

    I will never forget that gesture of pure generosity.

    • Another great story. Thanks for sharing.

      It’s nice to get a break from the cynical snarkiness of much of the urban blogosphere.

    • that story is super.

      most of the kids around my neighborhood are pretty good hearted too. they wear the tough exterior just to get around without getting hassled. once you’re past that, most of these kids are sweethearts.

  • Same here – thanks for sharing. There’s is where I think about PoP’s “Welcome to the Beautiful Life.”

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