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Life At the Bus Stop

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The bus stop is a wonderful place to learn about life, and to count your blessings

It could be because I have walked down many a darkened road and taken many wrong turns that left me lost in the world, that I feel this way, but regardless the reason, I believe that we all have the ability to rise above the circumstances of our lives. Yes, I may get lost sometimes, but oh, the beautiful places I have found, and adventures I have had while lost! Sometimes, things don't work out the way we want them to, but we all have a choice of the level we choose to exist in. Even if it is only in our minds that we create Utopia, we choose where we dwell.

Where do I choose to dwell? It changes from day to day. Some days, I choose to merely exist. People wonder if I am depressed. No, I’m just waiting to see what comes next. I try not to get overly excited about things, try not to anticipate, but to simply wait. People ask, “What’s wrong?” Nothing. “Why are you so down?” I’m not. “Why aren't you happy?” I didn't say I was unhappy, I am just…waiting. “Life is going to pass you by if you just sit there waiting.” Ah but perhaps it isn't my life that's passing me by…Maybe it’s like waiting at the bus stop. You don’t just get on just any bus, you wait for your bus, the one that will take you to your destination. While you wait, there is much to learn if you only pay attention, watching, talking to people and listening as their stories are revealed…

There’s a young couple sitting together. Teenagers, holding hands, quietly talking. Sharing a joke, laughing unaware of the world around them. Young and in love with each other, with life, with the latest and greatest new iPhone…who knows. The most daunting thing in their lives, the big History test in Mr. Johnson’s class. The biggest event in their lives to date? Going to the prom. Souls so uncluttered, lives so uncomplicated, hearts wide open, wonderful!

There is a homeless man and his wife, sitting there he’s unwashed, unshaven, and smells of alcohol, she crouches next to the trashcan, toothless, and dirty, her hair matted and tangled, talking to some unseen person. It would be so easy to judge them, but if you watch them for a bit of time, talk to him, listen to his answers, you can learn…he looks much older than 52, but he is just 52. His wife began to get a “bit strange in the head” about 25 years ago. Nothing too bad at first, she would just say things that were a little off, do things a bit differently than most…they still went on with their lives, raising their kids, taking part in their community, PTA meetings, boy scouts, band performances, church socials. Then one day, she was different. 

He never noticed she was changing, only that suddenly, she was someone else. Unwilling to leave the house. Fear permeated her life…their life. He threatened to leave…Go she said. But he didn't leave. Instead, he left his job as an investment banker, cashing in his retirement, leaving his world behind to take care of the woman he vowed to love and cherish in sickness and in health. And here they are 10 years later after losing their home. He spent everything he had to find a cure, to protect her from the unseen enemies that lived in her mind, but feeling as if he failed her, he turns to alcohol for solace as he watches her slowly slip away from him as he continues to do what he can for her, choosing a life on the street with the shell of a woman he loved instead of putting her in an institution, after all, she still has some good days where she is lucid...

There’s a boy, Richard, just over there, a boy in a man’s body. I can see that he has Down’s syndrome, it’s quite obvious as I watch him sitting there, ear phones on listening to music on his iPod. He has his eyes closed as he imagines himself on center stage, going through the moves he learned at his dance class. A young man with some kind of ID badge sits nearby, reading his book, occasionally looking up to check on him. As I talk to this young man, he tells me that Richard is practicing for an upcoming performance with the group he dances with. They are a group of handicapped performers who all have varying levels of ability, but when you put them on the stage, they all shine bright. How wonderful that dance is their great equalizer!

The young mother and her small kids, she’s frazzled and weary. The kids, playing on the seats beside her, grubby and loud. I sit and talk to her a bit, sharing some chips with her children, as I listen to her story. She tells me with her wounded heart, about the events that brought her here. Coming from a home where abuse was the norm, she sought to escape the cycle, when she was sixteen she found herself alone and pregnant with her father’s child. She married right out of high school just to get away from a situation that was bleak at best.

Sadly, knowing no other way of existence, she chose a man who was just like her father, an alcoholic, who loses touch with his humanity when he drinks. Many nights, he would come home from work after tossing back a few with his friends. He would walk in the door, angry with the world, the whole world against him, he would take it out on her. He would call her every filthy name he could think of, convincing himself that she was “entertaining all the neighborhood losers” bedding them while he was at work, after all, her first child was conceived when she tempted her own father into her bed! “These aren't my kids! They don’t even look like me!” he would rant. He would throw her across the room, blacken her eyes, twist her arm until her bones broke. He would curse at her, screaming in her face, calling her every degrading name he can think of while he would “take what’s his” abusing her sexually, humiliating her and then tossing her out of the house to sleep in the garage “like the dog she is!” In the morning, when he sobered up, he would let her back in, ice her wounds and apologize profusely. He would promise that he would never do it again and things would be nice for a while until the next time.

The turning point was when he came home blind drunk, attacking her in front of the children, he put the barrel of a gun into the baby’s mouth and telling her to give him “a reason to blow the little fucker away!” So now she lives in a Domestic Violence shelter, trying to put herself and her children back together. Counseling is helping, but she still sees him in her mind, when she closes her eyes, holding the gun in the baby’s mouth.

And lastly, there is me. Just another person waiting for the bus to take me to where life will lead me. My life so unremarkable, so simple and easy. Sure, I worry about making the bills each month, but I have a job, a roof over my head and enough money in my pocket to be able to get by. My daughter is a typical teenager, my parents healthy and still independent. Some days, I am gregarious and carefree, others, I choose to remain quiet and introspective. I count my blessings as I sit back and watch these people with whom I share the bus stop. Sitting at the bus stop is rarely boring. Sometimes the drama of other people’s lives unfold before your eyes.

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