Thoughts by Richard Bleil
In the late ‘70’s, in the heydays of disco as a club near where I grew up called “The Bus Stop”. I bought my first black silk shirt for this club. My mother made me return it.
Well, that’s a mom for you.
Today, I go to bus stops of a different kind. I’ve written of the decline of my life, the loss of my car, my status as “nomadic” (a.k.a. without my own home but fortunate to have friends who are willing to let me stay with them), and years of searching to land me a back-door part-time temporary job.
My friends try to offer advice to help me keep my spirits up. I love this. The reality is that I do have friends who love and care about me. Usually their advice is not terribly helpful, but it’s a beautiful and very sweet gesture that means the world to me.
The reality is that my life has fallen apart. But, through it, I don’t want to lose who I am.
I am unrealistically optimistic about the world. I’ve been taken advantage of as a result more often than I care to recall. But I’ve been told that it is Albert Einstein (which may or may not be true since there are many quotes incorrectly attributed to him) that said, “I would rather be an optimist and a fool, than a pessimist and right.” I’ve dated women who only wanted to be with me, unbeknownst to me, so their boyfriend would get jealous and propose. I’ve had girlfriends, and a wife for that matter, in relationships that lasted as long as my money did. But I still believe in love. I still am a helpless romantic. Even if it has not come to my door.
Through my challenges I never want to change who I am. At the bus stop, the bench is segregated into three parts. The left seat was occupied by a young man, and the center had a young woman. Before taking the open section (which are plenty wide by the way), I asked the woman if I could sit. Of course, she said “yes”.
As another woman approached the bus stop, I stood and offered her my seat. The man who was sitting there followed my lead and stood to do the same. She politely declined, saying that she was going to smoke and didn’t want to subject us all to her smoke (a thoughtful gesture in and of itself). Before this young man sat back down, he asked the woman on the bench if he could sit next to her, apparently taking his cue from me.
My social media feed has a quote attributed to Princess Diana, saying “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” I adore Princess Diana, but I will have to disagree with her on this point. Being “safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you” is, in and of itself, an expectation of reward. Maybe the reason to perform acts of kindness is to be an example, to set the tone for others to make the world a better place.
I’ve spent my life trying to influence others. Heck, that’s why I’m a teacher. God knows that people don’t teach for the pay. So, the only appeal that I can think of to teach is an attempt to inform, mold minds and influence others, hopefully to make them better people. This is what my entire life has been about, but the reality is, it’s not just teachers that can be a positive influence on society. Living life as an example for others, and you never know who might be watching, and who might change themselves because of your example.
That same day, a man in a pickup truck drove by. It was one of those large, expensive, shiny pickup trucks that are way too expensive, and far more vehicle than anybody needs except as a status symbol. I guess I am drawn to them as well and am way too guilty of feeling proud of myself, first in my Jeep, then in my Infiniti. As he drove past, he was fixated on me. Maybe it was my frame of mind, but he certainly had a smug look on his face, being obvious in his gaze as he passed. I assumed he was judging me (perhaps all of us, but he certainly seemed to be looking specifically at me), laughing to himself and proud that he doesn’t need to rely on public transportation. And yet, in that day, I encountered a young man who wanted to better himself by emulating my offering of my seat to another, and a smoker with the recognition of the needs and comfort of others, while he drove by on a cold day without a second thought of the warm cabin of his shiny big pickup truck.
He set an example as well. I don’t believe I ever looked down on anybody at a bus station, but perhaps I, too, have been too smug in my vehicle. I don’t believe I’ve ever thought less of people in buses, but I can’t say for certainty that I didn’t. In the future, assuming I manage to find a new vehicle, I will at least appreciate those who are less fortunate and relying on public transportation.