Going the extra half-mile for a stranger

Jul 27 2011 - 5:06pm

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Sometimes circumstances just beat you into submission and you're finally ready to learn one of Life's Lessons.

You know how there are days when your work just eats you alive? Days when you feel you've swallowed an entire lake and you're sucking mud, trying to survive, trying to stay upright before you keel right over, and you swear everything you're trying to do is doomed for failure and it's only a matter of time before you either collapse or explode or set something on fire?

Well, it had been one of those days in a long line of one of those days. At the end of the day I glanced at the clock and realized I'd missed my bus, so I scrambled around on the computer hunting for another bus and found one that would head in the general direction of getting me home if I hurried to the bus stop.

I made my last phone calls of the day while jogging to the bus stop. Collapsing on the bench there, I was still talking when I saw the bus coming. So I hurried to finish the call while I scrambled onto the bus, not even looking at the driver. Glancing around at the handful of riders, seeing them but not really, I slumped onto a seat and concluded the call. Then I sat back in exhaustion, looked down at the seat beside me, and realized my planner book was still sitting on the bench at the bus stop.

I have to explain that my planner has taken the place of my brains. It contains my life -- phone numbers, calendars, to-do lists, and notes. I barely function with it; I'd be toast without it. And now the bus was speeding away from it at 60 mph. I jumped up, staggered down the aisle and gasped to the driver, "I have to get off. I left my book back at the bus stop!"

For the first time I really looked at him. I looked at his face with my own disarrayed, distraught face, and saw a very kind face looking back at me -- a startlingly kind face which reflected absolutely nothing of the sheer panic I portrayed. In fact, his reaction was tranquil. He just smiled at me and said, "Well, ma'am, let's see if we can help you."

Calmly he called out to the riders, "There'll be a short detour, folks," and slowed at the next corner. He turned right at the next four corners, circling the block to take me -- a distressed, fearful, semi-hysterical stranger -- back to where she began. Almost before the bus halted I sprang from it, dashed to the bus hut, and saw my book lying next to a woman sitting on the bench.

She smiled and said, "I was hoping the owner would come back."

Another kind person.

I crawled back on the bus, looked into the serenely smiling face of the bus driver, and wondered how on earth I could adequately thank him. I burbled out my thanks, and staggered back to my seat.

That's where I started crying. The tears just kept flowing and I wondered why. At first, I thought it was because I was so glad to get my book back. And I was. But that wasn't the reason.

It was him. It was because in my deep despair, he'd assessed the situation, made a generous decision and helped a fellow traveler in a way that only he could. So I just sat there and let the relief wash through me, and prayed my thanks for someone who would do that for me. A mental adjustment of what really matters and what really doesn't started sifting through my mind.

At my bus stop, I paused to ask him his name because I needed to write to his company and tell them they had an angel driver. He smiled and told me. I again made the attempt to thank him. He waved my words aside and said, "Well ma'am, I couldn't just leave you there. This is the last bus of the day and then where would you have been?"

Where, indeed. He would have left me not just physically standing on the roadside, but spiritually eating dust. Instead, he drove the extra half mile to carry a weary, worn-out traveler.

I can't be him. But I can be like him.

Thanks, Tex.

You can contact Louise Brown at maven_55@yahoo.com or by calling her editor at 801-625-4223.

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