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This topic is adapted from The Atlantic YouTube channel.

William Cromartie is a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station agent who finds meaning through the simple act of saying hello to passengers. Like William, we can make a difference in ourselves and in the world by greeting and including others.

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Video Highlights:

  • Growing up, William felt like he was “in a box” because of a speech impediment. He felt like an observer of life, not a participant in life. He wanted to make a change. He didn’t want to be separate from life.
  • It took time for William to realize that feeling separate was his responsibility. He had agreed to be “in the box,” cordoned off from others. He had to choose to get out of the box.
  • When William sees people who don’t seem to feel that they belong, he feels a burden to show them that they do belong. He says hello to everyone getting on the train. He shakes hands and give fist-bumps and hugs to people he’s built relationships with. He doesn’t want to be a “troll” hiding away from people in the booth.

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William believes that seeing people as they are is an opportunity to see beauty in the world. Saying hello to people, whether they are like him or different from him, is one of the best things in life. Despite his fine education and his former profession as an entrepreneur, William loves his job as a BART agent. That’s why this video calls William an “agent of connection.”

Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. If you’ve ever ridden a train, bus, or other form of public transportation, what were the train/bus employees like? Were they friendly and engaging like William, or did they seem “separate” from passengers? Share a story if you have one.
  4. Have you ever felt like “an observer of life” rather than a “participant in life?” Explain.
  5. William believed he was responsible for his separation from others. What are some ways you can choose to “get out of the box” like William?
  6. Think of people you may know from school, work, or other places you go who don’t seem to belong or who may feel that they don’t. What are some ways, like William, you can show them that they do belong?
  7. Why is it important to belong and to show others they belong?
  8. What other ways can you be an “agent of connection” like William Cromartie?
  9. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.