In late 2013, a young African-American man in a hooded sweatshirt fell asleep on the Q train in New York City. His head leaned against the shoulder of a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke. The Jewish man let the black man sleep. Redditor Braffination snapped a photograph of the good deed and shared it along with these words:
“Heading home on the Q train yesterday when this young African American guy nods off on the shoulder of a Jewish man. The man doesn’t move a muscle, just lets him stay there. After a minute, I asked the man if he wanted me to wake the kid up, but he shook his head and responded, ‘He must have had a long day, let him sleep. We’ve all been there, right?’
“He was still sleeping soundly when I got off the train 20 minutes later.
“It was a small gesture, but a kind one. I love New Yorkers!
“What a wonderful reminder that every moment is a chance to do something good for another person. And not only that, but inspire the others around us with our small but powerful actions.”
Charidy posted the photograph and the words on Facebook, and after they went viral, more information became available about the two people in the photograph. The Jewish man is Isaac Theil, who let the black man stay asleep because “I simply remembered the times my own head would bop on someone’s shoulder because I was so tired after a long day.”
He added, “Maybe the photo wouldn’t have become so popular if people weren’t seeing a Jewish man with a yarmulke and a black man in a hood, and because they might not necessarily correlate the two. But there is only one reason that I didn’t move, and let him continue sleeping, and that has nothing to do with race. He was simply a human being who was exhausted, and I knew it and happened to be there and have a big shoulder to offer him.”
On 2 November 2013, the black man, Garvey Dutes, commented on Facebook, “This is me, I was not on drugs. I came from a long day of college, very tired and I nodded off on this random guy. I actually remember falling asleep, haha thank you and god bless to that man who let me sleep.”
On 3 November 2013, Mr. Dutes added, “We as new yorkers have a bad reputation. This would be a great way to shatter, that stereotype in a positive manner and bring people closer together. The only way is for it to be seen and heard. If I can reunite with this man, I would love for it to be public for the whole world. Or at least for new york to see. We need this light in a time of social despair.”
Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, president of The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, said, “To be able to draw on past hardship to soften our hearts towards others is one of the most repeated commandments to the Jewish people, and is the core of many spiritual traditions.”
(Although this good deed worked out well, Ellen Wiener did, however, make a good comment on tabletmag.com, “But what if the sleeping person missed his stop? I would have appreciated being woken up!”)
For Further Information: Yasmine Hafiz, “Sleeping Stranger Subway Picture On Q Train Defines Empathy And Is A Lesson In Being Good.” Huffington Post. 6 November 2013
For Further Information: Charidy, “Timeline Photos.” Facebook. Accessed 7 November 2013
For Further Information: Tova Ross, “A Kiddush Hashem Goes Viral: The subway rider who let a stranger nap on his shoulder and unwittingly became an Internet sensation.” Tablet. 6 November 2013
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