Back in the U.S., I was waiting for the light rail to go into downtown Denver. I was sitting on a bench with about a 10 minute wait for the next train when I heard what sounded like a very loud argument. Across the road, near the parking lot, was a young woman inside one of the bus stop booths. She was very upset, waving her arms and yelling. I didn’t know if she was angry with someone on the bus that had just pulled up, someone in the parking lot, or someone I couldn’t see. As it turned out, the object of her wrath was apparently someone that only she could see. She was making quite a spectacle, drawing the attention of anyone within earshot.
Unsure how to help, I, like everyone else, just watched and hoped she’d calm down. Instead, her screaming escalated to the point of being frightening. She began throwing herself against the side of the booth, getting angrier and louder. Just as I was pulling out my phone to call for some help, some RTD (Denver “Regional Transportation District”) employees drove by and, hearing this woman’s hysterics, stopped, got out of their vehicle, and approached her.
I couldn’t hear much of what they were saying to her, but she turned her screaming on them. The two RTD employees continued talking with her in a very calm and non-threatening way. She continued her frantic yelling.
One employee sat down in the bus stop booth with her, just sitting there, listening to her and nodding occasionally. The other called what I assume was the police, because her mental health condition was beyond any means of help without specific and knowledgeable care.
My train came, I boarded, and wasn’t able to see how the scene played out. But the image of one RTD employee sitting calmly with a very ill woman, very present with her in her crisis, is one I’ll remember for a long time. Through her irrational yelling, he was still able to listen to her as a person, to treat her with dignity while allowing his partner to get her the help she needed.
There is true compassion in authentic listening, regardless of the situation. At least within Denver’s RTD. I am grateful I could witness it, and I hope the young woman receives the same level of compassion through the help she requires.