What Would Jon Snow Do?

Today on the F train during one of my many, tired morning commutes, a woman sat down and I saw that she had a tag sticking out of the armpit of her must-have-been brand new blazer. My first thought was, “I should tell her.” My second was, “Someone at her office will tell her.” My third was, “What if no one tells her and she gets home and realizes she’s been walking around all day with a tag sticking out of her armpit?” My fourth was, “What would Jon Snow do?”

Feats of bravery are measured subjectively. There are days when rolling the covers off of you and stepping out of bed is a courageous act. Then, there are men taking bullets for people they’ve never met in conflicts across the globe. There is the sixteen-year-old boy who walks out of his house wearing eyeliner and mascara for the first time. There is the intern speaking up during a client meeting about how this stereotype or that poses a certain race in a detrimental light.

When someone tells you your fly is down, or you have food in your teeth, you feel slightly embarrassed. Or at least, I do. I’m always thankful after the fact, but embarrassed in the moment, and I feel as though that must be a universal feeling considering how often people go through a whole day with a poppy seed wedged between their front teeth. It’s the bystander effect, in not so dire terms — someone else will tell them, we think. Save the shared embarrassment for someone else to partake in, we think.

Karma is a deterrent force to cowardice. But it often fails because it relies on a sort of selfish self-preservation. I should tell her about the tag because if I don’t, something bad will happen to me. That’s not brave. It’s actually quite weak. What would Jon Snow do? That question unsettled me more, because it asked me what kind of person I wanted to be.

If you don’t watch the show, Jon Snow is a character in Game of Thrones who you root for. He’s honest to a fault, even when his honesty could lead to his demise. He puts others before himself. He forgives. He sees past class, creed, and upbringing. He’s the trademark hero who any fantasy connoisseur will tell you keeps them coming back. The one who grew up with the world against him, but cultivated no bitterness in his heart.

If Jon Snow was standing on the F train in my spot this morning, if he knew what a “blazer” or a “clothing tag” were, he would have told that woman about her tag like I did not. I know going back to that seems silly. A tag in the armpit is a small thing, I know. But we don’t live in Westeros. We don’t have to face big things like dragons, or sociopathic boy kings (well…), or prophecies of doom, or ice zombies. Many of us, if we’re lucky, have only the small things to conquer. And still, they so often defeat us.

Jon Snow is my hero (one of many), and maybe he’s not yours. But we all have at least one. Someone who we strive to be more like, someone who we would be ashamed to disappoint. The thing is, though, we choose them not because of who they are, but because of who we really are. It’s not karma — it’s character. And while we may still be too young to listen to our own inner voice and give it the respect its due, we’re never too old to revere a fictional character, and follow their lead in times of trouble.

What would Jon Snow do? I didn’t do what he would have this time. Luckily for me, there’s a million more small choices ready to test me.