The Man on a Train: Give Good the Benefit of the Doubt.

I used to live life with my cup half-empty. I was a pessimist through and through.

If I got caught in traffic, I’d think, “That’s it, this day is officially going to shit,” and sure enough, it would. I was an expert at manifesting worst-case scenarios.

Over time, though, I flipped that switch. Now, I no longer seek out proof that the world is against me. Instead, I go searching for good, and lo and behold, it’s showing up left, right and center, in my thoughts, in my environment, and in the people I meet — at least, most of them. Sometimes a jerk is just a jerk. Right?


I was on my way to Ottawa.

I could tell he was a jackass, that guy on the train watching his action movie with no headphones on and the volume up. He was the center of his own universe and determined to be the center of ours. Why wouldn’t I and every other passenger on board want to focus on him rather than lose ourselves in our own thoughts, books and social streams?

I wouldn’t have judged him quite so harshly for this misdemeanor if it weren’t for our earlier brief encounter. I was moving from seat to seat in search of the perfect spot for my four-hour journey. My ticket allocated me a rear-facing seat. I think not.

As I was milling about the carriage, I caught him watching me. I explained what I was doing.

“I’m trying to find the perfect seat,” I said.

“As long as it’s not here,” he replied, slight smirk on his face, left hand guarding the empty seat beside him.

Right, pal. As if I’d turn down an empty row just to sit next to you.

I try not to judge people. I really do. But this guy had two strikes against him and I’d written him off. If I’d have met him at a party the following day, I would have given him a wide berth and bitched to others about his lack of train etiquette.

The truth is, though, he wasn’t a bad guy. On the contrary, he was kind. Kind to the point of being unforgettable. Here’s why.

I was having a nap.

Given the whirring train’s dulcet hum, it was hard not to.

I tried contorting my body across my row but struggled to get comfortable. When I got up to rearrange myself, Mr. Centre-of-the-Universe pointed to the blue vest on the chair next to him and then pointed at me with an enquiring look that said, “Do you want this?”

I was taken aback. I shook my head No, smiled, and took my own fluffy jacket from the overhead bin, rolled it into a pillow, assumed the fetal position, and began to doze.

I’m not sure how long I’d been out, but when my phone rang and I opened my eyes groggily to answer it, I caught Mr. Centre-of-the-Universe discreetly placing his jacket over me before returning to his seat as if he did this kind kind of thing every day. What was obviously something that came pretty naturally to him was, to me, the kindest gesture I’ve received from a total stranger.

When you’re caught in a negative rut, it can be hard to see the good.

When you’re confined in a small space with a man whose movie is blaring, it can be hard to see the good in the man whose movie is blaring. So, what are you supposed to do?

If you can’t see it, believe in it anyway.

If I hadn’t taken a nap on that train, I wouldn’t have witnessed the kindness of this stranger, but his inherent kindness would have existed nonetheless. My point is this: the situation may not shine light on the good, but that doesn’t mean the good isn’t there.

Give good the benefit of the doubt and your heart will have no choice but to open. And when your heart opens, so will the door to new and surprisingly beautiful possibilities. So hold those judgments and remain on the lookout. Eyes wide open, friend. Eyes wide open.


Viv Singer is a dog-loving, Yoga-practicing personal-growth addict. When she’s not making her living as a freelance copywriter, she’s striving to understand her own motives, actions and responses so that she can learn from them, lead a more authentic life, and do a better job at living for today. To avoid boring her loved ones with her incessant Aha! moments, she launched vivfortoday.com where she regularly blogs her heart out. By sharing personal experiences and thoughts about her own daily life, Viv hopes to inspire others to make peace, feel joy, and find a little humor in theirs. For more from Viv, you can subscribe to her newsletter, or get social with her on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.


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