Good Deeds

the kindnessofstrangers

A Good Deed in NYC

Since 1976, the “Metropolitan Diary” column has been a place for New Yorkers to share their perhaps unusual, but important, moments with the New York Times and its readers. Here are 4 letters submitted to, and published in, the Times recently.


Delivery for Edward Albee by Joseph Distler   June 26, 2017

I owned one of the first restaurants in TriBeCa in the 1970s; it was called Riverrun Café and was on Franklin Street. One of our regular customers was the playwright Edward Albee.

Once a week, he would order our potpies to be delivered to his loft.

My bartender, Dan Llongo, was a tremendous Albee fan. But we had a policy of not getting personal with any of the famous people who came in.

Once, Dan asked whether he could say something to Mr. Albee the next time he called. We agreed that he could.

“Mr. Albee,” he said when the call came, “I just love your plays.”

“Thank you, sir,” the playwright said. “I just love your potpies!”


Crossing Houston Street by Lucy Lehman   June 21, 2017

I was recently at a busy intersection on Houston Street near Chinatown, waiting to cross the street. An older woman with a cane in one hand and a bulky shopping bag in the other started to explain something to me at length in Chinese.

I don’t know the language, so I had no idea what she was telling me, but I pretended to listen, and I nodded as she continued. Then the light changed to green, and suddenly I understood.

I held out my arm, which she grasped after shifting her shopping bag to the hand with the cane. We proceeded slowly across the street. When we got to the other side, she turned to me and said a few words. This time I understood perfectly: She was thanking me.

She slowly walked south toward Chinatown with the help of her cane, and I continued on my way to the subway. I had just had a lesson in the universal language of city dwellers.


Welcome to New York, Parking Edition by Bette Johnson   June 18, 2017

In 1963, after my sophomore year at Tufts, a college friend and I spent the summer working in New York City. We sublet a studio on First Avenue between 73rd and 74th Streets.

We drove down from Massachusetts in my two-year-old Chevy Nova convertible. It was gray with a white top and a red interior. Then, as now, parking regulations required that cars be moved to the alternate side of the street on particular days to allow for street cleaning.

One day I was in my car looking for a spot. I found one and was trying to parallel park, but I was having a hard time and tying up traffic.

An exasperated driver got out of a truck and came over to me.

“Lady,” he said, “let me show you how to do it.”

I let him get in, and he quickly parked my car. I thanked him. He got back into his truck and drove off.


Tears on the Train by Charlotte Fainblatt   June 27, 2017

I was on an uptown No. 6 train. A man who appeared to be in his 20s was on his cellphone making arrangements for his Mother, who had either been hurt or died unexpectedly. I couldn’t quite hear the facts.

I heard him talking about going to a school to inform his younger siblings about the situation. He was calm and polite in his conversation, yet after ending the call, he started to weep quietly.

I wanted to reach out to him, perhaps to give him money to take a taxi home with the youngsters he was on his way to pick up. I hesitated, not wanting to spoil his dignity or intrude on his grief.

As the tears rolled down his cheeks, I turned to a young man next to me and told him how I felt. He got off at the next stop. As he got off the train, he gently handed the man a tissue.


Good Deeds, Part 2, containing four more letters, next time.    




About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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