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Brian McGrory

Banking on kindness at the MBTA

If bad news were money, we’d all be millionaires these days.

The presidential candidates are basically trying to scratch each other’s eyes out. Nothing will change after the Colorado massacre. The world economy is dangling by a thread. Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on the direction of a one-way street.

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Plus the Red Sox are suddenly feeling like a bad ex-spouse.

The point being, I needed good news, just a little wisp of virtue to grab onto during these perfectly gloomy times. Which is why it was such a relief when a note from a stranger arrived in my inbox: “I thought I’d tell you about a good Samaritan from the MBTA.”

A good Samaritan? At the MBTA — the agency of fare hikes and late trains?

The writer, Marie McGehee, said she got into her car that morning and discovered a broken window. She dropped it off with her mechanic and walked to the nearest T stop in Newton to catch a bus downtown.

That’s when an MBTA car pulled up to the curb. The driver rolled down her window and told McGehee that another bus wouldn’t be along for a while. Then the T driver — get this — offered McGehee a ride to a nearby stop to get a different bus.

‘My mother always taught us to look for the good in things.’

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One good thing turned into another, and the T worker offered to drop McGehee off at South Station since she was already headed that way. The two of them chatted like old friends on the ride into town.

End of story. Sort of. But not really. This simple act of kindness stood in such sharp contrast to everything else going on these days that I had to learn more. So I found myself in the MBTA’s Watertown Yard, introducing myself to a uniformed woman eating a salad from a Tupperware container as she took her lunch break on a concrete slab.

Her name is Lorraine Landsburg, and she has dark hair and blazing eyes and the look of someone who could put an unruly passenger in a vise grip while cheerfully bantering with the rest of the bus. She was the T worker who offered the ride.

Remember how Cliff Clavin of “Cheers” loved the Postal Service? Landsburg may love the MBTA even more. She grew up in Mattapan riding buses all over town. When she became a driver, assigned to the busiest routes in Boston, it was the realization of a dream.

Part of that dream was to help people — to assist the elderly, to wait for harried commuters running down the sidewalk, to smile at passengers having a bad day. “My mother always taught us to look for the good in things,” she said.

She’s raised three sons as a single mother. She became the first female winner of the MBTA Roadeo, an annual obstacle course that determines the authority’s most-skilled driver. Her bosses and colleagues adore her. Now she’s an instructor, teaching new drivers not only how to maneuver a bus, but how to be kind to the people riding it.

I brought up a story she had shared with McGehee. A few years ago, she pulled into Mattapan Square on her last run of the night. The lone passenger, a woman with fresh bruises on her face, nervously asked if trolleys were still running. They weren’t. She tearfully asked if Landsburg could drive her back to where she boarded the bus.

“She said her boyfriend hit her,” Landsburg recalled. “I told her I didn’t feel right dropping her off there. She said she was trying to get to Waltham, and I lived nearby.”

So Landsburg invited a desperate stranger into her car and drove her home.

Who in the world do you possibly thank for somebody like this?

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.
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