by Shery Ma Belle Arrieta
Over a year ago, when I was seated on the bus at the terminal and going home from work, a woman showed a kindness that up to now I cannot forget.
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The bus was still not full. I sat on the third row, by the window, on the driver's side. It was nearly six p.m. but the driver still showed no intention of getting the bus on the road.
I saw a middle-aged woman take a seat at the opposite side. She was crying. Without directly talking to anyone, she continued to cry and tell her story.
She said she came to the city to visit her daughter and on her way to the bus terminal, one of her bags were snatched and stolen from her.
As she weeped, she narrated that the bag had half of the money she brought with her. The other half was rolled in a hankie and hidden under her blouse so she still had some money left.
The bus conductor, driver and the other passengers all listened to her tale and tried to sympathize with her. Finally, she stopped and took out some cheese bread from her bag and began to eat. Then I saw an old man in tattered clothes get on the bus and take the seat directly in front of the crying woman.
A few more minutes and all the seats were already taken. The driver got behind the wheel and started the engine. The bus conductor took out tickets and began asking us where we were getting off.
When he got to the old man, he was suspicious and asked if the old man had any money with him. The old man said no, but he knew where he was getting off. He said he spent all his money that morning when he accidentally got off the wrong bus.
When he heard this, the bus conductor told the old man that he couldn't possibly ride the bus. He ordered the old man to get off. The old man wouldn't budge. He was near to crying as he begged the bus conductor to let him take that ride so he could go home. The driver heard what was happening and approached the old man and he, too, told the old man to get off.
The woman was listening and observing what was transpiring. When the bus driver and conductor started to raise their voices at the old man, she interfered. She said, "Stop harassing him. Can't you see he's just trying to go home?"
"He doesn't have money!" the driver told her in a loud voice.
"Well, that's not reason enough!" she insisted. "Where will he get off and how much is his fare?"
The bus conductor mumbled the fare.
"Fine," said the woman and she reached between her blouse and took out her only remaining money. She gave it to the bus conductor. "Here's his fare and mine. I'll pay for him. It's only money. Just stop giving him a hard time. Can't you see he's old and weak?"
That made all heads turn to the woman. Minutes before, we all saw her cry over the money she lost and now she was paying for the old man's fare with what was left of her money. Everyone, including me, felt humbled by the woman's kindness and unselfishness.
Finally, the bus left the terminal. Not contented to pay for the old man's fare, she gave him some of her food and a 50-peso bill.
She SMILED for the rest of the trip.
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Copyright © 2001 by Shery Ma Belle Arrieta. All rights reserved.