The Washington DC metropolitan area, where I live, is big and impersonal. People are always in a hurry. They push, shove, and jostle one another without seeming to notice. Whenever someone bumps into me or steps in front of me on the Metro and says, "Excuse me," I know they must be tourists. People in my condo building stop at the communal row of mailboxes with their heads down and eyes averted lest they should have to say hello to each other. Nobody seems to care about anyone but themselves.
What a surprise I had the other day when I got sick on the Metro system. I was changing trains, and while I was walking, I suddenly felt very dizzy and faint. I leaned against a large post to steady myself, and a woman stopped and asked whether I needed help. I told her how I felt, and she told me to sit down so that I wouldn't fall down and injure myself. She asked me whether she could do anything to help, like getting me something to drink or summoning a Metro employee who could send for an ambulance. I kept telling her that I'd be OK if I just rested for a while. She didn't want to leave me alone, but after I reassured her repeatedly that I'd be OK, she left. By then, two of the Metro employees had come over to me and offered me the same help the woman had. By this time I was drinking some of the water which I always carry with me and feeling somewhat better. The Metro workers were reluctant to leave me alone and sick, so they stayed with me and kept watch over me. Then the most amazing thing of all happened. A male passerby stopped and asked whether I needed help, as the others had. I soon realized from the questions he asked me that he had had medical training. He asked whether I was unaccustomed to the heat and humidity of Washington, whether I was taking any medications, whether I was under a doctor's care, where I was going, whether someone would meet me there, etc. I asked him whether he had a medical background, and he told me that he was a retired LPN. When I asked him his specialty, he said, "Resuscitation," and I felt very lucky. He took a pen and a small notepad from his pocket, took notes, and handed the paper to me to keep. It was a list of the responses I had given to his questions, and these notes would be important if I were later taken to a medical facility. I could tell that I was still too confused to tell my story myself, and I understood and appreciated the importance of what he had done. Then came the most amazing thing of all. He offered to accompany me to the Metro station I was headed for, where I had a previously arranged rendezvous with a friend. I gratefully accepted his offer. The combination of rest, drinking water, and his proffered help made me feel much better. Soon we were on our way, and I just couldn't stop thanking him.