Evanston news delivered free to your inbox! 

It is Black History Month in the U.S.A, a month to honor and reflect on the history, contributions and services of black people.

Shortly after sitting down on a CTA train, a black man seated across from me greeted me. I nodded in acknowledgment. 

This man, who appeared to be in his 50s and whom I shall call Chat, said rather nonchalantly that he was hungry, without money or a job. I gave him the one loose dollar I had in my pocket. He thanked me profusely and said several times that he hoped I would be blessed for my kindness.  I smiled and thanked him. 

As other passengers got on the train, Chat greeted them and asked how they were regardless of their color. He got up and asked standing women if they wanted his seat, while explaining that he had been raised to be courteous. He asked people with luggage where they were going and did they need help. He commented on the cuteness or good behavior of passengers’ kids. To my amazement, everyone responded pleasantly and even engaged in conversations with Chat.  Hmm! 

I wondered what was going on. 

Was it Chat’s voice or his countenance that made people willing to interact so kindly with him?

I was seated next to a white, college-aged young man. 

Chat called this man by name.  They were engaged in a game about songs.  Chat sang part of a song, and the young man named the song or the performers or told Chat that he did not know.  Chat would compliment the young man for his correct answer or give him the right answer and then perform another song. 

When the young man reached his stop and walked to the door next to Chat to exit, Chat’s face dropped as he asked sadly, “You have to get off now?” 

The young man told him he did and wished Chat a good day. They gave each other a high-five, and the young man exited. 

I closed my eyes but opened them when Chat’s enthusiastic greetings and the sound of rustling bags being put down next to me made me want to see who now sat next to me. 

It was two young, college-aged black men. 

One of the men removed a small pizza box from a bag. I do not know what made this man ask Chat if he wanted some of his pizza.  Maybe Chat was looking at the box hungrily. 

Anyway, the young man took out a slice for himself and offered the box with the remaining slice to Chat. 

Chat reached for the box, thanked the young man profusely and wished that the young man would be blessed several times. 

I reached my stop shortly thereafter. Chat was still eating when I walked to the exit further away from him. He stopped eating and loudly wished me blessings and hoped that I would have a good day. 

I looked at him and smiled. Chat had displayed and promoted the essence of humanism, that is, “actions in which human interests, values and dignity predominate.” 

Chat had reached out to humans without hesitation or apparent restrictions.  Humanism unfettered.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...