When riding the subway in to work this morning, a man sat down across from me.
A man who looked like he had stepped right off the pages of a travel book or the Lonely Planet calendar. He didn't belong on a subway bound for downtown TO. He should be been sitting on a sunny bench outside a little shop, on a busy bazaar street somewhere in a little town in northern Africa. Tunisia perhaps.
Only he could have pulled off the ensemble he was wearing - khaki pants, a blue striped shirt, faded green vest and red cap. A Muslim prayer cap. It was his unusual ensemble that first caught my attention, but then I looked closer and saw his face… and then his eyes.
They were old eyes. Tired eyes. Eyes that saw without seeing - looked without looking. Eyes that had probably seen long years of hardships and suffering - perhaps still did.
He sat very still throughout the ride and stared past me into nothingness. Was he thinking about his past, his home country… so many miles away? Or was he merely lost in the early morning haze that most commuters envelop themselves?
My stop arrived and I stood up in preparation. Just as I stepped towards the door, he looked up and our eyes met. I smiled. He smiled back.
And then I saw what I had not seen before. His eyes - be they old and tired, were also wise and kind. And when he smiled at me, his whole appearance changed. He was no longer an old forgotten man on the subway. He was now someone's dad, someone's granddad and once, perhaps still someone's great love.
I stepped off the train surprisingly awake and alive! I think my day is going to be a good one!