This morning, on my usual route to work, I like to people-watch. I sit down in the same seat, with the same older lady from Bahrain next to me and watch people all the bus-trip long. When curiously, today, my journey became interesting.
If you have ever had to travel in London during peak time, you will understand that the game becomes sardines in a tin. Whether you are driving, on a bus or on the train. Everybody and their brother all struggling to enter the bus/train because missing that one bus will mean that you will be late to work/school. If you are unfortunate enough to be on a bus with school children, you will have to add being squashed with being disturbed by the noise of impertinent students who believe that the public bus is theirs and it is their right to disturb other passengers. It is all noise and unpleasant smells, awkward positions and constant apologies in the mornings.
If I time it well enough, I am able to catch my usual bus, with the usual driver. I find my usual seat at the back of one of those new eco-friendly buses and I wait. Today, I did not time it well enough but somehow managed to find my usual seat. This lady enter the bus and barges her way through the bus. She elbows the first man, falls into the mum struggling to hold on to her child, she steps on the foot of another lady, hits the elbow of yet another and finally pushes and climbs her way through to the seat across from me. She pushes the student who had secured her seat and climbed over her to get to her seat. The student hugs her bag and turns away, upset that yet another adult has imposed themselves on her space. This lady kept turning her head to look at the student every 10 seconds approximately. The student looked around to try and find another adult who would come to her aid because she thought as I did that not only was this woman encroaching on her space, she was also constantly giving her needless dirty looks.
She catches my eye and I nod affirmatively towards her and keep watching. In my irritation, I felt prompted to ask her to calm down and shift because she did not seat on her seat alone but sat half way on hers and the students, so she was taking up the student’s space as well as hers. The space between the window and her body was a lot. All she had to do was shift slightly. She had not been violent toward the student so I say nothing. I just keep watching. After the fifth head turn, I realised. She was not obnoxious or entitled. She was not rude. She was quite possibly disabled and in pain. In watching her intently, I realised that this woman was vibrating from her head right down to her legs and could not sit still. She was vibrating, rocking and every few minutes, she would clutch her knees and wince. She also had a tick that forced her to turn her neck every few moments. Ah! Clarity! I relaxed upon realisation and sat back. I hoped that the student would also realise and relax.
Thankfully, after a minutes of shifting and turning, I saw the student come to the same conclusion I did and she relaxed. She released her backpack back she had held onto so tightly to and sat back a little. The tension in her face disappearing and sympathy replacing it. For me, that was such a teachable moment.
It is said that first impressions are lasting or should be anyway. I am learning that it is not. Had I not looked again, I would have walked away believing that the lady was just rude, racist even and needlessly obnoxious. I would have shaken my head and wondered why people are so entitled and do not have any respect for young people. I would have walked away with the wrong impression and that would have made the world, that much darker for me. If I had reacted negatively, that student would have followed my lead and would have ended up mistreating this lady and after the confrontation would have realised the truth. I wonder how she would have felt when she realised what was actually going on?
As I alighted from the bus, I gave silent thanks that I was prompted to look again and not be so quick to jump to conclusions. I gave thanks that I did not leave things at my first reaction. I gave thanks that I paused before acting and I gave thanks that I did not do harm to another based on my filter of what I think the world is.
Every time I think I am where I am supposed to be, events like this one remind me that God has so much work to do in my heart and in my mind. I am not as kind as I should or could be. I am not as patient and my view of the world is actually quite bleak. Thankfully, God is still doing a work in me.
May God have mercy and teach me to always see the good, help me be slow to react and help me apply wisdom in everything I do and whatever it is I am involved in. In Jesus name I pray, Amen! I also pray the very same for you.
Love and Blessings,