One of the consequences of our move to St. Paul is that I drive a lot less. Although I ride the UST shuttle between the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses, I have begun using the city bus system with frequency to get around to locations other than the law school. (Coming from NY, I view this as a great improvement in my life.)
Yesterday morning, I hopped on a bus to get to my acupuncture appointment. I sat behind a well-dressed man in his mid-50s who was engaged in an animated conversation with two older men, one of whom – a man in his sixties – looked like he hadn’t changed his clothes in a while. It became clear to me that the three men had never met before. They joked back and forth about their respective ages until the one in his 70s said, “You got to be grateful as long as you can stand up.” The well-dressed man added, “yes, so long as you can eat some food,” prompting the disheveled looking man to add, “I’m happy for my oatmeal and strawberries in the morning.” One of the others added, “yes, and grateful you can still remember who you are.”
The three men continued to carry on until the disheveled man got off the bus. After he did, the older man turned to the other and said, “you know, I couldn’t really understand a lot of what he said, since he was mumbling a lot.” They continued speaking in a friendly manner until the second of the three got off the bus.
A couple of thoughts went through my mind. One was that the disheveled man may have been hard to understand, but the others talked to him anyway. And, from the looks of him, it is entirely possible that was the only friendly conversation he might have that day.
Another was that even those sitting around the three men, including myself, who were not involved in the conversation were all smiling – and not just individually smiling to themselves, but at each other. You don’t get those kind of shared moments sitting in your car.
Finally, I was touched by the expressions of gratitude offered by the three men. Whatever their respective circumstances, each expressed a sense of gratitude for what they had.
If you haven’t done so in a while, try taking public transportation rather than driving. You never know what you might experience.