One subway passenger saw an inspiring scene on a recent ride to Brooklyn

By Jason Duaine Hahn
April 27, 2018 04:25 PM
Denise Wilson

A recent New York City subway ride home from work was a refreshing change of pace for Denise Wilson, who came across a moving interaction between two strangers.

Wilson was heading home on the Q train to Brooklyn after work on April 17 when she noticed a man in a bright red jacket holding a pile of math worksheets on his lap. While he seemed to be struggling with the problems in front of him, there would soon be a kind stranger there to help him navigate the numbers.

“I saw him open the notebook watched him go through it, and a few stops later, another guy got on the train and he started leaning over and being a little nosey, trying to see what he was doing,” the 25-year-old from Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood tells PEOPLE. “Then I overheard him tell the stranger that his son failed a math test, so he was relearning fractions to help him because he hadn’t done them in years.”

The stranger then scooted in a little closer to the father — whose name Wilson later learned is Corey Simmons — and started teaching him fractions right there on the subway.

“When I saw that, my heart filled up with so much warmth,” Wilson says. “Dads don’t get enough credit sometimes, I feel like. And come to find out, Corey is a single father. That’s amazing to me.”

Even though she was seated across from them, Wilson could easily see how helpful the stranger, who mentioned he used to be a math teacher, was to the struggling father.

“Everything that Corey didn’t understand, the guy broke it down for him and showed him different methods on how he could do it,” she says.

Wilson discreetly took a picture of the two men and posted it to her Facebook account later that night, and it went viral by the next morning. The picture garnered some 123,000 reactions and 40,000 shares, with hundreds of commenters expressing their happiness at the inspiring interaction between two strangers. A relative of Simmons also reached out and told Wilson she recognized him from the photo.

In an interview with CBS New York, Simmons admitted that it’s been decades since the last time he solved a fraction problem, but that he and his son were now well on their way to understanding it. Simmons told the news station that he is glad he received some help on the subway that evening.

“You need help sometimes, and you shouldn’t want to bite your tongue, to not ask for the help. So don’t feel shy to ask someone for help. It’s okay,” Simmons told CBS. “It doesn’t matter if you fail, it’s what you do after you fail.”

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Wilson is happy she was able to shine a light on the heartwarming scene on the N.Y.C. subway, and she hopes this can show people a kinder side of the Big Apple if they have a negative impression of the city.

“It felt good that two complete strangers could come together — regardless of skin color — to teach each other,” Wilson tells PEOPLE, adding that she hopes someone identifies the math tutor so he can see his impact. “I feel both of them left each other with a gift.”