The Greyhound bus was packed when it left the depot in Dallas the Monday before Christmas Eve. I was pleased to discover the bus equipped with Wifi since the last time I rode one, over nearly thirty five years ago, all you got for your ticket was a torture device disguised as a seat. That ride, from boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, SC, back home to New York, took nearly twenty-four hours and was brutal. But now in my fifties, the twelve hour trip was just as hard on the body.
I assumed it was hard on everyone else as well, and so suffered in silence, busily reading and writing to bide my time. The frequent stops were welcome opportunities to stretch my legs and observe the wonderful diversity of the passengers being exchanged between Dallas and my destination, Nashville, Tennessee. I was traveling to spend the holidays with my sister who I had just discovered through Facebook and had bonded with via Skype and telephone conversations.
Some of my fellow passengers had been riding that same bus for days. They had come from as far away as the Pacific Northwest and various West Coast cities and towns. Some unable to book flights home for the holidays, others unable to afford the air fare. As a starving writer, I fell into the latter category. I had packed lots of little snacks, a good book, and felt well prepared. But I had not been in close quarters with restless children in some time, and soon discovered that patience, while a virtue, atrophies when not exercised. The two young kids in the seat in front of me were alternately playful and whiny, with little in between.
Shot with iphone 4S
When the whiny became crying, and lasted for over an hour, I wondered if the kids might be hungry and shared some of my snacks with them. They quieted for a while and I received a smile of gratitude from their mother who looked as if she was worn out from the dynamic duo. When the crying started up again, I was at a loss, assuming it was something other than hunger. I resigned myself to my grated nerves and tried to bear it stoically.
Fortunately, the woman seated across the aisle, also a writer, with whom I had been conversing on and off for most of the trip, had keener powers of observation. At the next stopover she returned carrying two Styrofoam trays of food from the bus stop cafe, handed one to each of the children and was rewarded with beaming smiles. Immediately after she settled into her seat, the driver of the bus walked back to hand two more trays of food to the now teary-eyed mother.
Apparently hunger was not uncommon for some of the families who had to regularly rely on this mode of transportation. I didn’t know if it was just the spirit of the holidays or if that type of altruistic behavior was the norm, but it left a good feeling in my heart for the entire visit. Mostly I was struck by the empathy that made three strangers do what they could to soothe the suffering of children. Wouldn’t it be a much better world if we all did that regardless of the labels we put on people? Just sayin’
M. Zane McClellan
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The Daily Post Discover Challenge: Connection