Once upon a time, a stranger on a bus changed my life.
Or maybe that’s a strong statement, but certainly, it’s something along those lines.
I was a sophomore in college, and the bus trip from home to school took around an hour and a half to two, one way. During that period of the semester where there is a lack of sleep and an abundance of struggle, I had learned the art of reviewing for my tests on the bus. It wasn’t a big deal; I’d just settle in upon embarking, pull out my notes, and start my morning with theories or readings or irrational numbers.
Mean, median, and mode were my companions on that particular morning. Now, on most days, the bus was crowded. As in, this-is-a-can-of-sardines kind of crowded, with one man’s exhale going straight to another man’s inhale. People who were lucky would be sitting down, as I was, crammed in the corner with pages upon pages of all my loose, yellow-pad notes, formulas and stuff that I didn’t sign up for when I enrolled in college, because this was a math subject, and I was in the College of Liberal arts. (Liberal arts people, you know what I mean.)
We reached a typical bus stop, and getting people out the bus felt like trying to get the last half inch of ketchup out of the bottle. It was always like that, but I was too busy trying to figure out where my X was.
Then, someone disturbed me.
I was snapped out of my numbers-induced trance by the elderly gentleman to my left, who tapped my shoulder as he stood up and prepared to leave. I wondered if I had inconvenienced him somehow, or if I was accidentally sitting on his pen or jacket or good mood. Funny, it was none of those.
“Excuse me, miss,” he said, “I just wanted to let you know that I think you’re working very hard, and you’ll go very far in life.
He was smiling as he said this, and then he got off the bus. It was his stop.
At that moment, I was not thinking about my future success in life. I was just trying to review for my Statistical Literacy final exam. That was all I was doing. Nothing extraordinary. And yet, here was a stranger who, for some reason, thought it was worthwhile to mention that I was doing better than okay, for no other reason than to let me know.
That had made me smile. It still does, to this day.
Ever had one of those moments? When a seemingly small, insignificant thing completely turned your day, week, or mindset around?
I don’t know why he said what he did. I’d wager he didn’t even think much of it; he was just being kind. A small act of kindness was what it was. You could even call it tiny, for what did those kind words cost him, anyway?
What he doesn’t know is that, when I was struggling with my studies and workload, when I was feeling hopeless and infinitely overwhelmed, I would sometimes remember that a stranger had thought I was good enough. I would recall that small act of kindness, and I made sure I did my best in that StatLit exam. I remember not to be too hard on myself, because a random elderly gentleman had told me I would go far, and it seemed to me that he believed it.
And to this day, I will not hesitate to tell people the good that I see in them, because who knows? They might really need to hear it. Now my friends tell me how encouraged they are whenever they talk to me. But that habit didn’t start with me. It started with a stranger on a bus.
That’s the thing with small acts of kindness. You never know how far God would use that one word of encouragement, that tiny deed, those loaves and fish, that favor, that remarkable moment of patience, to speak life into those who desperately need it. Sometimes, you’ll have to disturb someone. Sometimes, it’ll be in a seemingly wrong time, at a seemingly wrong place. But if you do it with a smile out of the overflow of your heart, that one good deed ripples into untold tales about life-changing strangers.