The Bus Stop

by | Jun 4, 1999 | Kindness

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 behaviour 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!

Renee Ripley

Renee holds a Master of Arts and is an avid reader and freelance writer. She is also the mom of two great, growing boys. The family lives most of the year in Arizona, but stays in the highlands of Scotland during the summer. She is constantly looking for the everyday gems of life as inspiration for her stories. That should keep her writing for a lifetime!


The Bus Stop