The Day a Stranger on a Bus Changed My Life
written by Alyce Kominetsky
I had something happen to me a few nights ago that I haven’t been able to get off my mind.
The other evening I finished my night class. I had to rush to catch the early bus and stood on the corner waving like a mad woman so the bus driver would see me as he made his way around the corner.
I was grumpy and tired.
I had spent the day at the library studying for an exam. My daughter cried when I left because she hadn’t been able to cuddle with me “All day!” I missed my husband and my girl. My mind drifted to my warm, cozy bed where I would soon find solace. While wallowing in self-pity, a woman and her two small children came onto the bus. She and her youngest sat in the seat ahead of me, and her oldest filled the vacant seat beside me. She gave me a tired smile. I smiled back, noting she was likely close to my daughter’s age.
Within minutes, she had fallen asleep. Her little head bobbed on and off of my shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” the mom said to me.
“I don’t mind.” I replied. I honestly didn’t. It was late, and obviously past bedtime.
As I stared down at the sleeping girl beside me, I found myself judging this mom.
Why were her kids up so late? What was she doing on the bus at this hour?
They should be home in bed, I self-righteously said to myself.
By the time we reached the bus station, both children were sound asleep. I offered to help the mom carry her babies and her bags off the bus. When we got off the bus to a deserted station, I began to sense her panic. It was dark, it was cold, and it was late. I could see the tears welling up in her eyes.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said, hugging her youngest close to her chest.
I knew I needed to help her. I offered to give her a ride. She hesitated. I told her I would drive her wherever they needed to go. Again, she hesitated. I reassured her I didn’t mind, to please let me help her. Then, in a faint voice, she told me.
I immediately understood her hesitation.
We bundled her babies up in my car. As I began to drive through the darkness, I felt my knuckles clench around the steering wheel.
I desperately wanted to ask her if she needed anything.
I desperately wanted to ask her if I could help her.
I desperately wanted to ask her name.
But, we sat in silence.
The soft breathing from her sleeping babies in the backseat was the only sound we heard. As we neared our destination, she softly said, “I can’t thank you enough. We’ve been through so much. I am grateful you were on our bus tonight.”
I reached over and squeezed her hand. “I am grateful I was on your bus tonight, too.”
I pulled into a dark alleyway and put my vehicle in park. A row of ordinary townhouses stood in front of us. Townhouses I had driven by countless times, and never realized the haven they were providing.
I reached to unbuckle my seatbelt, but her voice stopped me.
“You can’t come in. We aren’t supposed to tell anyone where these safe houses are. I don’t want to get in trouble. We have nowhere else to go.”
I bit my lip to stop myself from crying. I watched as she unbuckled the youngest and softly woke the oldest. As the door closed she thanked me one last time. I sat for a minute, with my lights off, to make sure they got in safely.
My heart ached. In an instant I was brought back to reality. I was brought back to how profoundly blessed I am. How mediocre and ridiculous my earlier worries seemed. I drove home, hot tears spilling down my face. When I walked through the door of my warm, safe home, and saw my husband, my heart exploded. I couldn’t muster any words.
He wrapped me in his loving arms as I explained what had happened.
It took me a long time to fall asleep that night. I am still thinking about this woman. I feel grateful for being able to help her, but I feel incredibly embarrassed for judging her.
I had no right.
I had no idea the story of her life.
Sometimes people are put in our path to influence our lives, and this woman did exactly that. Through our brief encounter, this woman exemplified strength and courage. Her love for her children was evident. She reminded me of something I often forget. This woman helped me remember to be thankful for each and every day. But, most importantly, she reminded me of the importance of kindness. We never know the path someone else is traveling.
The lessons she reminded me of are simple:
This experience will stay with me forever. I will likely never see this woman again. But, if I ever do, I will tell her how brave and strong she truly is.
Alyce is a full time Professional Communications student, and full-time Wife and Mama. When she isn’t busy chasing after her five year old; she loves reading, writing, and dabbling in photography. She proudly admits her obsession to reality television. She has been published by Club Mid at Scary Mommy, Yummy Mummy Club, and Mamalode. You can find Alyce on her blog, One Word at a Time, Facebook and Twitter (@alycekom)