As I boarded my first bus, tears filled my eyes…
I watched as my family pulled away which tore at all of my emotions. I knew I had to make this trip, there was no question in my mind. I was doing what was right, although it didn’t lessen my knowing how badly I would miss them.
My first stop was in an inner city bus stop. I was faced with an extremely long layover and was now surrounded by a hoard of strangers. Looking at my surroundings, I noticed that this stop never slept. I was not unlike the place, as there was no way I could have closed my eyes. For the longest time, I just watched, as people moved about and children cried. Every type of person, of every ethnic background, seemed to swallow me making me the minority. After all, I was traveling alone.
Originally, while learning it would take me twenty three and a half hours to travel what should have taken me nine by car, I was a little bit scared. It was a typical response, as people fear what they do not know. I was no where near a seasoned bus traveler. I made sure to my luggage within arms reach, as I was unsure of what to expect. I felt that making it to my destination with clothing was the best route to take and I wanted no chance of not ensuring this simple thing.
After sitting for quite some time, and suffering waffle butt syndrome from the uncomfortable iron benches, I decided I had to move. Exhaustion had set in, and I just couldn’t stay seated anymore. Hauling my luggage with me, I made my way outside.
Being a very friendly person, I have always been able to speak to whomever I am around. Boredom caused me to do just that. I made conversation with several people. Some were a little more apprehensive of my open abilities to say “hello”, while others seemed somewhat thankful to have someone to talk to.
We all spoke of why we were making our way, to our final destinations. Some were traveling as far as across the country. There were people who were making a new start while others decided simply to meet family and friends on the other side. There were even full families taking a quick vacation together. I, myself, was heading to help my very ill father.
I looked in the eyes of these people, from all walks of life, and found a little of myself in each of them. Oddly we were, after all, in this together. The more people I met, the more I felt responsible to watch out for each of them. Strangely, they all felt the same about me.
I had taken a couple of young fellas under my wing. The pair had met on a bus, and made it a point to watch out for each other. I decided to take care of them because I found them to be unworldly and it seemed they had no idea what to expect from life. We spoke of the girlfriends they had left behind, and they had asked for my advice on love and other topics. They listened as I vented about my fears of what I would learn when I got to my father’s hospital room. After a long while, they both became very tired and I agreed to watch their things, while they laid their young heads on a table and fell asleep. I woke them, when their bus was called, to ensure that they didn’t miss it. A small nod and wave and they were gone. Yet this time I didn’t feel so alone.
I had met a family who I connected with quickly. One of them won over my heart with her honest approach. She said to me, “I don’t understand why people steal luggage, because I don’t even want to lug mine, let alone someone else’s things.” Between giggles, I agreed. This family didn’t see me as a different color, nor did I them. We’d traded off luggage watching duties when each of us needed to get up and walk away. They had offered to feed me from the supplies that they had carried with them. I knew that their trip would be a long one, and yet they had offered to care for me from the little they had. I politely declined, knowing they would inevitably need it more than me, as they had many more mouths to feed. It didn’t change the fact that the offer had touched my soul.
A man who was seated on his luggage, beside the soda machine, passed me a handful of change from a purple Crown Royal drawstring bag. The money changer had met it’s demise and he saw me struggling to find enough change in my purse for a water. He refused to take any money in return, because as he had said, “my trip is now coming to an end, and yours has just begun.”
After boarding my next bus I met another man, who was a minister. He was heading to the same final stop as me. For the longest time, I listened as he spoke to the others on the bus, of God and His glory. He, then, began speaking to me and we quickly befriended each other.
Together, we’d made a layover in a very sketchy area. I had been speaking to some of the residents of the Indiana town we had stopped in. Those people were, without a doubt, some of the roughest people I had ever met.
There were two who I had made the acquaintance of at separate times during the stop. One had been assaulted by a bat and pipe, just days before, and wore the most terrible bruises I had ever seen. Another had been stabbed in the neck while falling asleep next to the town’s river bank. Curiosity took over and their broken bodies made me want to find out what had torn apart their souls. I had learned that drugs had been a part in each story and my heart broke for them. I reasoned that although they had made their own decisions in life they might not have been given any opportunity to avoid these mistakes. Each openly told me their stories and seemed comfortable in doing so. I reminded each of them that they had lived through their attacks, and were still here to tell about it. I challenged each of them to find the reason they had been given that second chance.
As I spoke to the people that everyone else would have shied away from the minister had later admitted that he had watched over me, the whole time, from afar.
As I stepped foot at my last stop, it occurred to me that I had been afraid for nothing. People are people no matter where you are. Everyone has a story to tell, although some are more sinister and terrifying than others. Some people just need someone to listen, and to care enough to give advice that no one else has the guts to give.
While becoming a bleary eyed traveler, I found I was never really alone. It is important, in life to remember that you have to trust someone sometime, even if it is someone that no one else would take the time to try to understand. No matter how soft or hardened the people were that I had met on my travels, just offering an ear and a heartfelt word seemed to sate the savage beast in all of them.
I shall board a bus again soon, to head back home. Though it will be heart wrenching leaving my father behind, I fear not the people I will encounter. Strangers are, after all, just friends I have yet to meet.