Let’s all do something really stoooooopid today, let us all take a used soup can, tie piece of string on it, and then tell everyone we know how it is that we lost weight. No good huh? Thought so.
One of my favorite movies is “Pay It Forward” and any time it is on, I watch it. If you have some spare time, locate a copy and check it out, you will not be disappointed.
Today’s offering is a story about the #13 bus. This is the bus that I had to ride to the VA when I went in for treatments. Parking is lousy at the VA downtown, so every now and then, I would opt for the #13 bus downtown which would deposit me at the main depot (9 miles and 45 minutes later), where I caught another bus to the VA. It wasn’t the best solution to the problem, but it filled the need, it worked for me.
If you are riding a city bus these days, then you are definitely down close to the bottom rung of the food chain. Buses in this part of the country are reserved for the socially economically deprived. Low wage earners and for lack of better word, poor people are the main passengers. Lot of crack heads, mentally unstable, homeless, they all ride the bus. It is not advisable to wear jewelry or bling-bling when riding the bus and it is a definite trick to try and make yourself “unnoticeable” by most any means. Just this week for instance, a young woman was stabbed too death on a municipal bus in Oklahoma City, riding the bus is not the best mode of transportation around here for sure.
Most folks, middle class folks, trying to save money on fuel will drive to the bus stop and park their cars and then load up on the bus. Others they just sit at the bench and wait, occasionally looking down the road for the approach of old #13. I would walk the three blocks up the street from my home, find the bench and wait for the next bus to come down the street. I did not look forward to these trips and for most intents and purposes, did not enjoy several of them on different occasions (this is another story for another time).
There was an old man that rode the #13. He was one of these people who always looked a little bit rumpled, worn around the edges, who dressed in wrinkled clothes and never seemed to comb his hair. His face is tired, and is well etched with exhaustion and the dues he has paid over the years. His life looks to be a lot different from mine or yours and he most always never has anything of value with him or carries any belongings.
The bus pulls up, the doors open, and he is there. He just sort of appears out of thin air (you never find him sitting on the bench) at this one dusty road that is barely even considered a regular stop. I often wondered where it was that he spent the night, especially on those cold Oklahoma memory makers. Those nights when all he had to keep him warm were most likely a stack of old newspapers and his memories of better times.
One trip in particular I remember, he boarded the bus, took one of the side facing front seats and looked down at the floor. A few stops later a young woman boarded. She swipes her bus pass only to find the machine would not accept it. The driver told her she would have to deposit the correct fare.
“I just bought this card,” she said, “I paid the money.”
“ The driver said she could take the card back to the sales office and explain the problem. In the meantime she would have to pay the fare for that day.” The woman became distressed and didn’t understand why she would have to pay the fare. The rest of the bus passengers just watched wondering how the problem would be solved. Suddenly the old man, rose from his seat, dropped a jingle of coins into the fare box and sat back down, his eyes returning to the floor. His act was so unobtrusive that the distressed passenger didn’t even realize what had happened.
“You’re good,” the bus driver said quietly, “he paid for you.”
The bus pulled away from the curb and headed downtown. A hush fell over the bus. The rest of the passengers sat there and had watched the woman’s discomfort, the old man had felt it. Perhaps a few had wondered absently how the dilemma would be resolved. He resolved it. Life is what happens to you when you are not paying attention. You never know when you’ll be in the presence of greatness or of grace.
To the world my fellow passenger looked like a man in need of solutions. I also had looked at him and saw only what he lacked. By the time he stepped off the bus that morning, it was obvious that he was a richer man than the rest of us.
He had enough to open his eyes and see the need.
He had enough to open his heart to a stranger.
He had enough to give of what he had.
He had to trust life for the rest.
The strange part of all this, is I understand that he virtually disappeared. I rode the bus several times after that, but he was never there, at that dusty spot in the road, I don’t know what happened to him. And I have never seen the act repeated or the need to arise again. In some circles of thought, some people believe angels occasionally drop down and move among us. Others will tell me that there are times in life that “you are tested and often unknowingly fail to pass the test” by a power that is higher than all.
All I know is that I have a new respect for the simple act of kindness.
These days, as some of you already know, I live in the country. I no longer live in the city, and I do not have to ride the bus, so I have to substitute the experience with another. I have to make due with what life presents me and then move with resolve.
Occasionally, I will observe an old couple in a beanery or restaurant enjoying their breakfast or lunch and I will discreetly pick up their tab for the meal. Yesterday I did that very thing, just inquire about the old couple in this booth, ask for their ticket, pay it and leave.
I find this to be a nice pay it forward kind of thing.
When I am in town, and I see little kids setting up shop to sell lemonade on a hot summer day, I will often stop and purchase what they have to sell. I could for instance, buy you a tank of gasoline to get you home. It just helps to make this old world a little bit better for me, and it helps you out too.
It aint much but it keeps the bus rolling, it speeds us all along the way.