I write this with apologies to my writers group, The Parkland Writers Café, as many of my friends there are indeed little in stature, of a certain age, and most certainly ladies. I have to refer them to the Boy Scouts of America who, for generations, have perpetuated a stereotype of gallant uniformed boys assisting the aforementioned ‘little old ladies’ across the streets of America.
While on our daily walk this morning, a woman approached my wife. She asked if she could accompany us for a bit. It seems that she had just gotten off of one bus from her late shift job and was walking to another stop for her connecting bus home. She said that a young man, whom she did not recognize, also got off of the bus and she was concerned about his behavior. She described his body language and even had taken her umbrella out of her bag in case she needed to defend herself.
This reminded me of previous incidents in my life. I thought about my history as a helper and where I learned to be one. I did not learn it from the Boy Scouts, rather from my grandmother. My grandmother actually discouraged the scouting. She didn’t mind me being outdoors, but she did recognize it as an overly right-wing organization with too much of a military structure for her taste.
Her teaching was more in the form of a role model. For seven years of Kindergarten through sixth grade, my grandmother drove me the mile to my elementary school before turning around and heading back toward her school in the next town where she served as Principal. Each day, as we neared my school, she would stop at the bus stop and pick up Mrs. Reynolds, who worked as a cashier at our local Shop-Rite supermarket. I asked her once if she was friends with Mrs. Reynolds as I’d never seen her anywhere else. My grandmother told me that she knew that Mrs. Reynolds worked in a store that she would be passing each day, and that if she could save this woman the bus fare why shouldn’t she?
As I grew older, I too found such opportunities. I am not a believer in Karma or in preparing for some afterlife. The Golden Rule is good enough for me. It also was a good example for my children. One day, I had my three kids at the town swimming pool. We were loading the car to go home to meet my wife for some event when I saw a woman walking nearby. She clearly looked confused. I asked if she needed help. She spoke little English, but I was able to determine that she was looking for a bus to take her to New York City. I explained that she was in the wrong place, and that at this time of the day, she would be better off taking the train. I took her to the train station, but got home late as a result. My wife was angry, but I was delighted to watch my kids all come to my defense explaining the care I took with this woman in obvious trouble. I was proud to have passed my grandmother’s legacy on to my children.
This morning, my wife and I walked this woman over to her bus stop and sat with her until some of the other regulars arrived. She spoke of how she didn’t know if this kid was trouble, and didn’t want him to be inappropriately hassled by the police. Still, she sees the poor work ethic of young people where she works and the aimless ones where she lives. After we left, my wife and I talked about how blessed we were to not have to take a bus at an advanced age to a midnight shift and then to have to worry about our safety while doing it. Most importantly, we felt blessed that in even the smallest way, we were still able to be of help. Soon, we will possibly be in a position to depend on the kindness of strangers and I sincerely hope that sharing this story will inspire others to be those strangers.