Two times in two days I’ve seen people I don’t know crying in public.
Yesterday on the subway station on my way to work, a woman in her forties were crying. I wanted to do something, say something comforting but I didn’t know what. I didn’t know if she would have wanted me to.
Just now on the commuter train, on the way back home from a party, a younger woman around 20-25 were sitting on the row across me. Suddenly she got an SMS, and she started crying uncontrollably. As the tears started to flow, she turned away to hide her face, sobbing loudly. Again, I wanted to do something but didn’t know what. As this was the last train for the night and the train was almost at my station, I felt I didn’t have time to talk to her. As I passed her on the way to the door, I gently stroked her back in a comforting gesture. I don’t know if it had any meaning for her, but I simply couldn’t just pass her without doing something – especially since she and I were practically alone in the train compartment. Perhaps I should have stayed on the train, trying to talk to her and then grab a cab to get home – to have someone to talk to could be worth so much more than the money I would have spent. Perhaps she just wanted to be alone, whatever message her phone brought her needed solitude to digest.
What should you do in a situation like that? When you have no idea why the person in question is crying and don’t know if they want to talk to a complete stranger in a situation like that. It could be that a friendly hand means the world to them, but it might as well make things worse, putting them in an even more uneasy situation.
I hope both of them will be alright.