The Richest Man On The Bus
He is on my bus only occasionally, a worn man in crumpled clothing with disheveled hair. His life looks different from the rest of ours. We are mostly middle income. His face is etched with exhaustion and he carries virtually no belongings. We drive ourselves to the parking lot. He appears along a busy road seemingly out of nowhere. We sometimes wonder where he slept the night before.
A few weeks ago he boarded the bus, took one of the side facing front seats and as he typically does and looked down at the floor.
A few stops later a young woman boarded, a regular rider who speaks good but not native English. She swipes her bus pass only to find the machine would not accept it. The driver told her she would have to deposit the $2.25 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 today. The woman became distressed and didn't understand why she would have to pay the fare. The rest of us just watched wondering how the problem would be solved.
Suddenly the crumpled clothed 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 driver repeated it and pulled away from the curb. A hush fell over the bus.
The rest of us had watched the woman's discomfort, he felt it.
We wondered absently how the dilemma would be resolved. He resolved it.
We lawyers, journalists, business people were headed downtown to help fix the world. He fixed her world. We could have paid the $2.25 and never missed it. It's easy to imagine that was his fare home.
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 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 then the rest of us. He had enough to open his eyes and his heart to a stranger, enough to give of what he had and trust life for the rest.
I haven't seen him since that day. Some people believe angels occasionally drop down and move among us. All I know is that I have a new respect for the simple act of kindness. It keeps the bus rolling, it speeds us along the way."
~Krista Ramsey; Cincinnati Enquirer; Nov 26, 2010; pg. A.150~
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