2. Lessons Learned in Exile
The building is nothing special, and that’s putting it mildly. I was scared when standing in line to get my ticket, and am still feeling somewhat uneasy having my computer out.
The janitor is mopping the floor as I wait for my bus. I reach over to move my bag so he can have access to more floor space. He motions to me, smiling and shaking his head, thanking me but letting me know that my actions are unnecessary. I watch him as he cleans around me, covering the floor efficiently, a floor that I just walked on and dirtied with my new sandals from Israel. The woman who sold me my ticket at the information counter notices my watching him and smiles at me while straightening her shiny black hair.
I think back to the lady at the airport an hour ago, who was loudly talking to all of us waiting for the bus, saying that when she gets pregnant she hopes that she doesn’t have triplets because two she could handle, but three would be pushing her limits. A bus arrived, not at the stop that I was waiting at. She must have noticed that I didn’t seem so confident about where I was standing because she asked where I was headed. She then pointed me in the direction of the bus that had stopped at a different location, while rattling off directions and prices with a wide smile on her beautiful face.
I amble onto the city bus, asking the driver if he is going to the stop I was told is nearby the terminal. He confirms and I settle comfortably into my seat, ipod on shuffle. As we near the stop, he asks me which side of the street I would like to get off at. I tell him that it doesn’t matter, because I am walking to the bus terminal to catch the Greyhound to Toronto. He exclaims, “Oh! Why didn’t you say so?” and proceeds to explain to me and another woman that since this is the last bus and he is going home afterward, he makes sure to drop everyone off exactly where they need to go, especially us ladies. “I know you can take care of yourself and you may be a kung-fu master, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that I could have taken 2 minutes out of my day to make sure that you were safe.”
He drops the other woman off and then takes me to the bus station, where I am currently sitting, surrounded by people who are foreign in so many ways, who take the Greyhound because they don’t own cars, and who have drawls and vocabulary that I can barely comprehend.
The janitor is finished with the floor. He tucks his long, greasy blonde hair behind his ears and removes his waterproof vest.
An elderly man approaches me and asks what kind of computer I have because he is looking to replace his. He explains that (like myself) he needs something that is user friendly and good for travel. We talk for 10 minutes and I try to help him out while admitting that my (lack of) knowledge is only based on experience. I then say a silent “thank you” for being given the opportunity to give back in a small way after receiving such an overload of kindness.
I am in exile but am surrounded by hope and inspiration.
These people may have never heard of Avraham Aveinu, but they could teach the world a thing or two about chesed (kindness). It is these people who provide us with clean floors to walk on and empty garbage cans to dispose of our waste. No matter where we go and no matter what we do there is infinite opportunity to make the world a better place. Let’s start by learning how to connect to others with an outstretched hand and a full heart.
September 1, 2010 – Indianapolis Bus Terminal