On the subway, he gave her his seat. He must have been around thirty, and she must have been more than seventy. Sitting down and beaming a beautiful, genuine smile, she thanked him; ten seconds later, the woman repeated her smile and her gratitude, and she continued to do this approximately twenty more times until he arrived at his stop and left the train. She remained seated, with the same smile on her face with which she had sat down. This scene was as endearing as it was sad. Perhaps dementia plays our in greats cities more cruelly, but the gesture of giving up a seat and the subsequent act of giving thanks inadvertently made me emotional by the scene’s combination of tenderness, sadness, and joy.
I don’t know when Black Friday arrived in Galicia. Walking around Santiago de Compostela and around Orense this week, I saw the shops’ advertised discounts, and I thought: “We Spaniards adopt this consumerist celebration, but we don’t adopt the tradition of the preceding Thursday, Thanksgiving.” There seem to be multiple reasons to celebrate Black Friday, but the fact that we Spaniards celebrate the feast of discounts but we miss the opportunity to observe the feast of gratitude makes me question what makes some traditions transcend beyond their origins while others do not. I pondered the value of tangible acquisition over the absence of celebrating intangible values.
I remember a few studies published in the Journal of Social Psychology about the effect kindness has on the perception of happiness. Cicero said that “there is no greater duty than giving thanks.” And for me, that moment of kindness and thanksgiving, a brief loop witnessed on the subway, made me share with others kindness and thanksgiving in a disproportionate way for some days. The result of this self-study: a satisfying feeling of contributing to the contagion of positive feelings. One more grain of happiness.