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How A Stranger On The Subway Taught Me About Gratitude

Of the 8.4 million people in NYC, I'm glad I ran into this one.

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"The best things in life require the most work."

I've basically heard different versions of this my entire life and live by it. I'm the type of person who sets lofty goals for myself and am constantly moving at a million miles per minute with my head down. Ask anyone who knows me.

Just today, my friend of 6 years wrote this on my Facebook wall:

And my friend of 14 years sends me texts like this:

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Yes, moving at lightning speeds lets me get a lot done but sometimes I forget to show my friends, family, people I work with and anyone I interact with how much they mean to me. It's so easy to say "thank you" but to show genuine gratitude, to make someone feel appreciated, to make them feel like they've made a difference, is way harder.

A complete stranger I met on the subway last night reminded me how important this is.

I was standing on the N train when I noticed something on the floor. At first, I thought it was a flyer someone threw away but realized it was a small wallet. I picked it up and found its rightful owner - we'll call him Eric. Eric was so surprised that he dropped his wallet and was also a little embarrassed.


(he took a photo ID out of the wallet to show me it actually belonged to him)

The wallet-return led to a conversation. We exchanged names, what we do for a living, our neighborhoods in Brooklyn, a surprise he's planning for his husband and other instances of wallet-forgetfulness.

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While we spoke, I was completely taken back by how thankful he was. Eric probably thanked me about 15x (yes, my brain is always working and unconsciously sort of counted) and asked if there's anything he could do to show his gratitude. Now, it was my turn to be embarrassed. It didn't take a lot of effort for me to pick up a wallet and all of a sudden, he's putting me on a pedestal.

In the 5 seconds that I found and returned his wallet, it impacted his life in a huge way.

Not only did Eric have his ID, credit cards, money and other items in his wallet, he also had his husband's personal information because he was filling out forms to surprise him with a motorcycle.

After we parted ways, it made me think about times where someone did something for me and I wasn't as gracious as I could've been because my brain is so busy working all the time that it forgets to be thankful and to appreciate everything that's going on and everyone that is involved.

Gratitude is easy to give but may require some work on my part and I'm going to make it a point to show gratitude more often.

Eric, thank you for reminding me of such an important gesture and I hope you can tell how appreciative I am from reading this. I'm glad I was able to make your day and I hope your husband enjoys his surprise.

To everyone else who's reading this, who should you thank and what's the best way you can do it?

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