I am a White blood cell.

Lately I’ve been trying to think of myself as a White blood cell. Now, I don’t want to be unfair to leukocytes, so I’ll admit that my understanding of what they do is somewhat rudimentary. Basically, I view them as cells that clean up the area around them.

I work in New York City. However, I live in New Jersey so my commute is typically about 90 minutes of Fall Out Boy and catching up on my James Joyce. I work in an industry that a lot of people would probably assume to be very stressful. I’ve found it to be interesting, though, that the fast-paced atmosphere and big personalities aren’t what stresses me out. In fact, I’m lucky enough to absolutely love my job (seriously, my mom makes fun of me sometimes because I love it so much). I have found that the most stressful thing I do every day is commute. I’m usually pretty laid back, but lately it has been more difficult to step into work with a positive frame of mind.

On my commute recently, I had an encounter that sort of shook me up. A woman got onto the subway – keep in mind that it was crowded but not the “sardine” status we usually have going. As she worked her way into the subway, she stepped on a man’s foot. Now, he was wearing steel-toed construction boots so I’m surprised he even felt it, but he must have because until the next stop he screamed all nature of profanities at her. At the next stop, he got off. She sat down and was understandably pretty shell-shocked. I know if someone screamed at me at 8am for something like that I’d have no idea how to react. What really got to me though was that I made eye contact with people around me and they all just sort of shrugged as if to say: “That’s unfortunate, but not my problem.” It hit me that the encounter had potentially ruined that woman’s entire day. For the first time in a long time on my commute, I felt the need to connect. I told her I was sorry that that happened, and that I hoped she would still be able to have a wonderful day.

I don’t think we, collectively as a human species, recognize how toxic our negativity is. The above might be an extreme example, but situations like that are why I’ve focused on acting as a “White-blood cell” of sorts. New York, in a lot of ways, is like a massive body. It has all sorts of vital organs (Penn Station, Times Square, etc.). And if these are the organs, the transit system and the people inside it are the circulatory system and the blood of that body. We keep it living, moving, pumping. And in it, there are toxins in the form of negativity. I strive to clean up the area around me. If I can hold an elevator, help get a cart of plants onto a subway car, or even just smile and it helps someone to have a better day, than I am cleaning up the toxins in my area. I fear that sometimes my commute suffers from a “low White blood cell count”, and that is why each individual must strive to be better every day at improving the days of those around us. We much each clean up our area to create a healthy body. Because if there is one thing I have learned the past few weeks, it’s that one smile can help turn someone’s entire day around – and if it takes a little bit more focus from me every morning…That’s worth it.

Peter Alexander

Peter is a 25-year-old life-long New Jersey Resident. He graduated from the University of Scranton with an English and Theater double major and currently works in New York City. He has a passion for birdwatching, baseball statistics, and singing karaoke on long car rides. He is very excited to be a part of the Project Wednesday team!

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