I came across this quotation in Oval tube (Underground) station a couple of weeks ago.
A member of the station staff apparently writes up a ‘thought for the day’ on one of the station noticeboards every morning. He (or she) also plays gentle, soothing classical music over the ticket hall PA system.
On the day I discovered this, I tried to take a photo of the noticeboard showing the above quotation. I was slightly annoyed at the couple taking an inordinately long time standing around in front of it, blocking my view and my photo while apparently having a deep discussion about it.
I took my photo anyway, though from a slightly awkward angle, and was about to go on my way, when the couple stopped me.
“Excuse me,” they asked, in heavily-accented English, “what does this word mean?” They indicated the word ‘wide’ and I explained “Ah! It is ‘big’?” They explained they had thought it said ‘white’ and had been puzzling over what it could possibly mean.
With smiles and thanks, we went our separate ways, and I was left pondering the irony of the incident. So often Londoners – myself included – rush around, frustrated with people getting in their way, just trying to get on with their own lives. Then something makes them stop, smile, reflect and communicate.
How appropriate that this time it was a quotation about the potential of the human heart! The heart of the station employee was big enough to prompt him to take a moment out of his day to put on some music and write a positive, encouraging thought on the board for all to see. The hearts of this couple were engaged by it and were soft enough to spend time puzzling over it, and then humble enough to ask for help.
And my heart…? Well, it was, thankfully, just about soft enough to notice the quotation and pause to record it. It was initially frustrated by this couple, but hopefully it has now learned its lesson and expanded just a little to allow compassion for others to creep in.
Thank you, whoever you are at Oval station!