The Apple

Advice Column

Hello friend,

How did I find myself sobbing in the back of a New York City taxi, Friend?

Just a few months earlier I’d moved across the country from San Diego to do an internship.

It took adjusting to get used to city life, winter weather, navigating public transportation, and living in a place I didn’t know anyone. But the biggest shock was the cultural difference between my family’s business where I’d been working and the vibe on Wall Street.

On my first day on the job, I was told to report to the woman who would be my boss. When I knocked on Julie’s door she glanced up and said, “What?” in an irritated tone. When I’d then introduced myself, she answered, “I don’t have time for this bull sh*t. Go sit in Office 3.”

That was emblematic of how my time at the bank had gone. I was shuffled around and tried to stay out of the way. While I wanted to be useful and to prove to myself I could “make it,” I lacked the skills and the insight to figure out how. I gave that job a lot of power to dictate how I felt about myself. In retrospect, far more than it deserved. 

But at the time I felt like I’d jumped into the deep end and I was sinking.

The morning that I broke down in a stranger’s cab, I was supposed to meet a team of analysts from my department, along with the CEO of the whole company, at the train station where we’d all depart for a meeting in Delaware. I was holding everyone’s tickets. 

When I got to Grand Central Station and couldn’t find the track number for our train, I found out the station I was supposed to be at was Penn Station.

Panicked, I ran to the street, got in a taxi, and asked the driver to hurry to Pennsylvania Station. The train was going to leave in 10 minutes. I had everyone’s tickets, and I was once again messing up.

The driver, a middle-aged man with a big turban and a heavy accent, shrugged apologetically and told me we could not make it across town in traffic in that amount of time.

With that news, the frustration, sadness, embarrassment, and fear that had built up over the past months welled up. Without anything to slow it down, it expelled itself through untamed tears.

The driver watched me through the rearview mirror. I imagine he hadn’t had many hysterical 22-year-olds in the back of his car. He stayed frozen still for a while and waited. 

Then, as I tried to compose myself, he released his seat belt, reached way across the passenger seat into a tattered satchel, pulled out his brown lunch bag, and removed something.

In the space between the steering wheel and the security glass, he contorted his body to turn around and face me. He reached his arm through a small opening in the plexiglass meant to exchange money. Then, without saying a word, he handed me his apple.

This stranger who had come from a country far from mine, this driver who had no idea what it was like to be a 22-year-old girl on Wall Street, this man who didn’t know why I was crying in his cab, had so much compassion that he wanted to comfort me so he gave me what he had. In doing so, he showed me he cared.

“Thank you,” I said, simultaneously shocked and heart-warmed.

At that moment I felt that even in that big, crowded, city run by competitive people, where I had felt all alone, there was humanity. 

I have been given many beautiful and generous things in my lifetime, like the special watch my grandparents gave me on my sixteenth birthday. But among the most priceless things I’ve ever received is that red apple that the man in the turban pulled out of his lunch bag.

I bet you’ve metaphorically given away more apples than you realize. I’m sure there have been times that you flashed a smile at someone who was feeling a bit down, and it raised their spirits. I can bet you have held the door open for a stranger who was feeling invisible that day and you let them know you saw them. You have probably given a sincere compliment to someone who walked a little taller afterward.  

I want to say to you, KEEP IT UP! What you are doing matters. Every day the “apples” you give away remind someone that there is kindness in the world. You are giving them a priceless treasure!

With love,

Lisa

P.S. Would you prefer to listen or watch rather than read? Click here for an audio version, or click here for a video version of this email!

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