The Woman On The Bus

I keep thinking about a young woman I saw on the bus this morning.

I was so glad when the bus arrived at my stop so that I could get out of the cold.  I climbed on and settled into one of the last available seats.  Several people were already standing.  I was so glad to be on the warm bus and to have a seat.  About two stops down from mine, the bus stopped and let a group of people on.  After they boarded, the driver did not leave the stop.  I wondered what he was waiting for.  Finally, I saw her.  Hurrying as quickly as she could while dragging a stroller through the snow, a woman was approaching the bus.  She hauled the stroller up the steps and showed her pass.  The bus was crowded and she could not fit the stroller down the aisle.  Finally, she asked a man in a front seat if she could sit in his seat.  He got up and moved.  She sat down with a big sigh and unbundled a child from the pile of blankets covering him on the stroller.  All I could see was his red coat and his big, serious eyes.

I looked at the woman.  She was just a girl, really.  She did not have a coat on, just a heavy sweater.  I remembered how cold I had been outside, even while wearing my warm coat, and imagined that she must have been freezing as she walked to the bus.  She looked so tired, with big dark circles under her eyes.  She began to talk to some of the other students on the bus, and I realized she was on her way to school.  I thought about how hard it must be for her to get that baby up and dressed and drag him down to the bus stop and go to school.  I realized how easy my life is, how privileged I am.  I really wanted to do something for this girl.  I wanted to give her a coat or some food or some encouragement.  I didn’t have anything to give her, so I just gave her a smile.  She kind of scowled at me and looked away, busying herself with her child.

The young woman got off at Main and South, with a bunch of other students who were headed for school.  She bundled that baby up in his blankets before dragging the stroller down the steps and out into the snow.  I tried to catch her eye, to send a positive message to her somehow, but she did not look at me.

I have been thinking about that woman all day.  Her tired-looking face haunts me.  The fact that she had no coat bothers me so much.  I know that I will probably never see her again.  Even if I do, I still won’t have any right to intrude into her life.  I wish I could befriend her.  I wish I could give her something.  I wish I knew how I can do anything for her.  I have been praying for her, but I don’t even know how to pray for what she needs.

One of my strongest feelings is shame.  I am ashamed that I complain about the cold – with my nice, warm coat and my woolly hat and scarf.  I am ashamed that I grumble about walking in the snow – when I have no heavy stroller to drag with me.  I feel ashamed that I have been given so many blessings and yet I can offer no blessing to this girl.  I feel ashamed that she turned away when I smiled – ashamed of the differences between us that form an insurmountable barrier.

I don’t know what to do, and so I pray.  And I don’t even know how to pray for her, really.  I pray for the girl in the sweater, that she will be safe and warm.  I pray for the same for her baby.  I pray that they have strength for the present and hope for the future.  I pray that someone will give that girl a smile that she can accept.  In my prayer, I reach out and wrap my arms around her, sending her warmth and love.  For myself, I pray that I will learn how to put my thoughts into action, so that I can make a real difference in the world.

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14 thoughts on “The Woman On The Bus

  1. Belinda you really seem to be such a good person but is prayer enough? If the Lord has a plan for that woman he will follow through on the plan without intervention of our prayers which sometimes are more for our spiritual benefit and our own need to communicate with Him, rather than the person we pray for. I see allot of human misery ,suffering and poverty many times a day here in the far east and I used to pray for them allot. They received no benefit from my prayers to my knowledge ,but I did, and I knew there was something better I could do. I had a chat with the local Abbott and he understood my predicament: he advised me to reach out! Nobody , he said, is unreachable no matter who they are, what they look like or the vibes that they transmit through body language. In a society where nobody is afraid to talk to a complete stranger and generally nody is suspicious if not very surprised , nobody builds a shield around themselves… isn’t it wonderful for a person to KNOW that someone cares and someone wants to help. Wouldn’t that woman have been so grateful if you had reached out to her and offered comforting words? Maybe it would have turned that “scowl” into a smile…its happened to me so very many times here…..

    • Ron, part of my shame is that I did not reach out more to this young woman. Looking back on the experience, I wish I had spoken to her or reached out to her in some way. But, the only thing I could think of to do, after the fact, was to offer a prayer for her and to reach out to her spiritually. I think that prayer does good, whether we see the results or not. I agree that my prayer does benefit me, in that it connects me to God and hopefully will help me to bridge the gap between myself and the next person that I run into. I am trying to develop of friendlier, more approachable spirit, and that may help me to break free from my own hesitations. I am thankful that there are people like you who are unafraid to reach out and offer comfort to strangers and I pray that I will soon be able to do that as well. Thank you for writing and God bless you.

  2. Belinda- Thank you for sharing this moving story, as well as your own grappling with the experience. I hear your feelings of helplessness and even, shame about not being able to help.
    I recall you recent blog, ‘the strange discussion,’ which is an interesting juxtaposition to this one. I remember how adament you were that other people wouldn’t ‘pray away’ your struggle. You clearly articulate the gifts it’s brought you. “We shall see…”
    Be aware of shame, that can undermine our faith. Gratitude and prayer feel like a beautiful response to this young woman, who God has a plan for. We shall see.

    • Thank you, Sheri. I was struck by the tension between my reaction to people praying for my sight to be restored and myself wanting to pray for this young woman. I think that was part of my hesitation to pray for her. How do I know what God has in mind for her? She does need a coat, but I will not have an opportunity to give her one. I am grateful for the reminder that there are teens right here in the city who do not have coats. I know I can donate some to Mary’s Place and help alleviate the need. I am just struggling with the question “what else am I called to do?” Thank you for the warning about shame. I am not dwelling in it, just acknowledging it and using it as a force for breaking the inertia that keeps me from moving. Peace.

  3. Someone once shared with me that they prayed that God would “fill in the gaps” for whatever her children needed for that day, that she, for whatever reason, was unable to provide for them.
    I am offering a prayer this evening for this young woman, that God “fills in the gaps” where the rest of the world fails her. That is enough, as God knows best what she needs. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I think you make a difference in the world every time you write about these experiences, your struggles, your achievements. Please know that you are helping many others face their difficulties with grace.

  5. what a powerful experience, sometimes all we can do for others is squeeze out a little prayer for them. we usually don’t think of a prayer for those in dire need is much to offer but just think of the huge thing you did. not only did you take the time to ask God to send a little grace her way but you perhaps put a little dent in her armor by smiling at her and her baby. also, by sharing the experience i’ll bet everyone who reads this says a similar prayer and makes a greater effort to touch the lives of others in the future. at work i see people who are worried about what is broken in their home and sometimes just a confident smile from me can put them at ease that it will get better soon.

  6. Each year at our office we adopt a family. I feel sad when I read tags that a 8 year old needs a warm coat, sneakers, socks. I buy a few items, but this so easy and seems so inadequate. I will pray that I too can find a way to make a difference.

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