Why Did the Old Man Give Me His Seat on the Light Rail?

Why Did the Old Man Give Me His Seat on the Light Rail?

This morning, on the light rail, a bareheaded man who appeared to be around 70 stood up to give me his seat.

In Israel (and maybe everywhere), there are iron-clad social norms regarding who gives up their seat for whom on public transportation.

People give up their seats for 3 categories of human beings: pregnant women, elderly people, and people who are blind or otherwise physically disabled.

Since I don’t fall into any of those categories, I told the man (whom I actually would have given up my seat for if HE had been standing) “No, it’s OK…”

But he insisted, with a determined hand motioning me into his seat: “Nu, Geveret, come on, sit down. Please!”

He must, I thought with a bit of embarrassment, think I’m pregnant. After carrying 8 children for 9 months a piece, my abdomen will never ever be quite as flat as it is in that 20-year-old wedding photo of me smiling up at my husband next to this computer.

But when I got back home, on the way to putting in another load of laundry, I stopped in front of the full-length mirror in my daughters’ room, and turned sideways. Nope, my baby’s turning two next week. Nobody would think I’m pregnant anymore, B”H.

And then I thought a surprising thought. Maybe this man was being, like, chivalrous? Like the gentleman laying down his cloak over the mud puddle for the fair maiden? The thought made me feel unusually fragile. A chivalrous Sabra? Hard to imagine.

But then I had another thought.

Maybe he saw from my appearance that I am a religious woman and wife?

And he thought, this woman believes in Hashem and the Torah.

She runs a Jewish home, with all of the challenges that entails.

She is a modest woman and a loyal wife to her husband.

She maintains the traditions of our people with care and determination.

Maybe this man, in his own way, was standing up to honor me? Like when a rabbi or rebbetzin walks into the room

And as he stood up to give me his seat, he thought “She isn’t pregnant or elderly or blind or disabled, but this is the kind of human being for whom I would like to stand up.”

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8 comments

  1. sooo sweet!

  2. love it!

  3. very special!

  4. That’s an amazing reframe, CJ. We can be so quick to judge the way we look.

  5. Beautiful perspective!

  6. Very sweet. My guess, though, is that he was being chivalrous and didn’t consider himself an old man who needed to be given a seat

    • i do wonder why,then, he davka chose me out of all the women standing? maybe i was just the closest to him…

  7. why not give him the benefit of the doubt that he was honoring Hashem and Torah through his act of kindness towards you. Assuming he was healthy a 70 does not like to consider themselves old… (spoken as a young 64 year old!)

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