The Bus Stop
A cold wind whipped across my hemline as I scurried across the street
to the bus stop. Head bent down watching my feet so as not to slip,
I stepped up on the sidewalk and hurried over to the sun-bleached
bench. I sat on the edge of the bench next to a well-dressed young
man. I smiled at him but he glared back. Startled, and a bit
shaken, I buried my nose in a book to wait for the bus. Behind me
several more young people snickered, rolling their eyes. This must
have been the time for the bus to deliver handfuls of kids to the
local high school. It wasn't someplace for a frumpy middle aged
woman to be. A woman merely trying to get to work. I didn't fit. I
was part of the "older" generation. They figured I probably never
listened to anyone under the age of 30.
I furtively peeked out from the book. Heads were bent at my glance
and feet shuffled. Amidst the mockery and laughing they were scared
children in teenage bodies. They were searching and trying to cope
in what they thought was a nasty world. I thought back on my own
conversation with my own teenage son, Joshua, over the weekend.
Talking late into the night, he poured out his heart in a spurt of
anguish. So many issues, so many stresses.
"What's the point of it all?" he said. "The world is all messed up
anyway, and people are just nasty. I can't go through one day when
some adult doesn't scream me at. Drivers are rude and I am on alert
everywhere I drive, just so I can get back in one piece. What's the
point mom? You talk to me about compassion and loving people. What
is there to love?"
My heart broke at his word as his torment raged. I gently asked if
he felt alone with this or did his friends feel the same way?
His eyes were pitiful in his answer. "Oh, everyone is the same. I
even have two friends at school who have tried to slit their wrists
and their parents don't even know it! They don't care, they are too
in to their own world to care about anything else!"
I had a difficult time imagining this coming from kids at a parochial
school. But were we as parents blind and pretending that learning
about God somehow eased the pain of adolescence?
The swoosh of the bus stopping, jerked me into reality. I stood up
shakily, the first in line. The group of kids lined up behind me.
As the bus door opened I turned around and offered for them to go
first. Shock registered on their faces. Shock and bewilderment. I
smiled at a young woman, one of my brightest smile. The cold wind
blew through my curls, raising it in a dance.
"Go ahead, please" I said. I wanted to say "Go ahead, honey" or some
other endearment, but didn't want to be offensive.
"Go on, it's fine." I urged.
The girl shrugged her shoulders indifferently but she stepped up on
the bus. I noticed, however, that there was less pain in her face.
One after another, the kids climbed aboard and with each one I would
smile and say, "go ahead...have a good day!" It was just a simple
act of kindness and a thoughtful word. Slowly the kids mounted the
bus. They started kidding each other and their moods lifted.
Finally I boarded the bus herself and stood in the front. There
were no other seats.
At the next stop, the same scowling, well-dressed young man got up
and offered his seat to the me as two other teenagers boarded the
bus. Their mood was completely different. They chattered and joked
and talked about their families. They laughed about their younger
siblings. They laughed about boys. Joy was on their faces. They
lowered their voices and whispered. One girl said, "Well my mom
always says just find one thing good in the day. That's always our
assignment at the end of the day. Sometimes it's a pain, but usually
there's something that I can be thankful for." Her friend murmured
in agreement. She too had a parent that cared.
The bus rattled on, stopping and starting. Stopping and starting.
The girls turned to talk to a few friends. They listened intently,
nodding in understanding. They were listening to pain. They were
listening to frustration. They were listening to life. They were
just being there for a friend. Everyone got involved in the
conversation. Everyone had a voice. Everyone could be heard.
As the stop approached for the high school, the kids gathered up
their backpacks. Their dispositions had lifted and they lined up,
getting off their bus with jokes and laughter. A little kindness had
gone a long way.
The last girl to leave turned her head and looked at me, sitting
alone. She smiled and said, "Ma'am, you have a good day!" Then off
the bus she hopped. I smiled as the doors closed.
As the bus pulled away, I heard the bus driver say, "You know, that's
the best behavior I've seen in those kids in a long time. They're
usually just sullen and nasty. Guess a kind word can go a long way!"
I smiled again. Yes, a kind word could go a long way. It was up to
my generation to be responsible, say that word and make a difference
for the progeny to come. I made a resolve then and there to utter
those words or show a kindness everyday. I was so glad that I was
off to a good start that morning!
[ By: Renee Ripley -- from '2THEHEART' ]
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