“Do you have an umbrella?”


I, as someone who obsessively refreshes the Weather Channel widget on my phone to know the most current weather and forecast, had somehow missed the widely predicted downpour that began during this Thursday’s morning commute.

Looking out the windows of the train car, I could see what began as a gentle drizzle steadily increasing to a massive deluge as I got closer to my stop.

The kind gentleman (whom I had smiled at when first boarding the train eight stops ago) standing with me in the metro car as we pulled into the station where we both happened to be disembarking was looking at me with genuine concern. And then a beautiful thing happened:

“Here. Take mine. I’ll use my hood.”

I looked down to see a black Gap umbrella extended in my direction.

After being warned repeatedly about the mean spirits and unkind nature of all DC folk, here I was being offered an umbrella by a complete stranger on a DC metro train. I refused it at first, but – let’s be honest – I did not want to show up to work sporting the wet-dog look.

Those five words uttered by that man lend credence – and perhaps even proof – to a theory I’ve been developing since I arrived in D.C. for the Washington Hillsdale Internship Program: people are generally only as kind as you are willing to let them be.

So often before moving to the “big city,” I was told to keep my eyes down, avoid interaction with basically everyone I did not know, and assume every person was a drug-addicted murderer.

To consistently assume the worst in everyone you see is not only an exhausting endeavor, but it is also an inherently unproductive venture.  Sure, there are some terrifying people who do not have my best interests at heart roaming these streets, but I’d venture to say a majority of my fellow city-dwellers are good people.

Saying “good morning,” smiling, or even a simple nod of acknowledgment can be the difference between showing up to work drenched or being offered an umbrella by a stranger simply looking out for his fellow commuter.