As the express subway passed through the 59th street station tonight, a plastic lid with its straw still attached fell at my feet. My nano-second thought of “Where did that come from?” was followed by a dual impulse to kick the lid down onto the tracks where there was a already a plethora of garbage, or to leave it where it was for the station cleaning crew. But a stronger instinct prevailed. With my hands still in their winter gloves, I got up to gingerly pick up the lid and attached straw and drop it into the nearby trash. Moments after I had sat back down on the bench, the lady standing next to me with a lidless Qdoba soda cup looked at me and asked, “Was that my lid?” I felt a moment of mortified panic course through my body as I realized that I had just thrown out her lid; but she reassured me that if it fell on the platform floor it was trash anyway. And she smiled and thanked me for trying to keep the subways neat.
My train approached, and I climbed into the nearest car along with a crush of others. I was lost in thought when a voice next to me asked about my earrings. To my surprise, the voice belonged to the same woman. I smiled and told her that my earrings contained tiny paintings of bluebirds. Small though they are (in reality, an extravagant Christmas gift from my husband) my bluebirds of happiness earrings are sort of like talismans to me.
Tonight they served as a reminder that it takes so little to make a difference.