Actress Dawn Wells of Gilligan’s Island fame once said, “Kindness can have a ripple effect. I’ve seen it. It feels good to leave a room happier than when you came in.”
The late actress’ words came back to me the other morning.
I’d just left my doctor’s office in an irked mood. The diagnosis was unclear but the prognosis was tests, tests and more tests.
Tests, I thought to myself on the subway ride home. It’s OK for doctors to want to do tests. I’m the one that’ll have to book time off work to get them done. Deadlines don’t wait for doctors’ tests.
(Yes, I think like that.)
My mood was not improved as I ascended to the street-level platform. Instead of a few morning stragglers waiting for the bus that would take me back to work, more than two dozen people were waiting.
I overheard someone saying she had already been waiting 15 minutes and it seemed as if the next bus would not be there for another half an hour.
That’s just great, I fumed to myself. I’ll have lost the entire day at this rate!
I wasn’t alone. The waiting crowd had started muttering to themselves.
The loudest mutterer was a young man in a Hawaiian T-shirt who was pacing the embarkation platform, talking on his cellphone.
“Of course, the bus hasn’t arrived!” he said. “Buses are never on time! I’ll have to take a taxi because I can’t be late. What else can I do? I was supposed to have enough time to pick them up and get there before the appointment. Why does this always happen to me?”
That’s just great, I fumed to myself. I’ll have lost the entire day at this rate! KEN RAMSTEAD
The man’s anger was infectious. People along the platform were becoming agitated, trying to figure out ways to get home, to get to work, to get to appointments. The atmosphere on this sunny day had turned dark.
At that point, our bus rolled to the platform. After the final passenger had debarked, the bus driver stepped out. I expected someone uncaring about the wait he had inflicted.
My thoughts couldn’t have been further from the truth.
“Guys, I am so sorry for the delay you have all been through,” he told us. “Of the three buses on this line, one broke down and the driver reported sick on the other. I’m afraid I’m all there is for the moment until the late afternoon.”
He responded courteously to every passenger’s inquiry. “That store is right on this line.” “I’ll get you as close to your destination as I can.” “Don’t worry!”
Unfailingly cheerful, he answered a few more questions and then announced, “If you can all get on, I’ll get going as fast as I can. But first,” he smiled, “I need to respond to a call of nature. I’ve been driving for four hours without a break!”
By the time we were on the bus and leaving the station, the bitter mood had lifted. People were smiling, and the happiest person seemed to be the Hawaiian T-shirt guy, who had alerted his parents, waiting for him on a stop further down the line.
“Don’t worry, Ma. We’re on our way. This driver’s been great. He’s doing all he can, and we’ll be there soon.” Turns out they were going to an important doctor’s appointment for his ailing father.
His relief was palpable when his parents got on the bus at their stop, and I even vacated my own seat and stood so that they could sit close together.
By the time I got to my own stop, I was smiling, too, as our cheerful bus driver and our cheerful passengers continued on their way.
We all know the sayings dealing with bad apples spoiling the bunch and ill winds blowing nobody good. But before that, the Bible had already turned them on their head. Biblical expressions of people leading and inspiring by example are many, up to and including Jesus.
For three years during His ministry on earth, Jesus preached the Word of God. He not only healed the sick, the blind and the lame but even worried about whether His followers had enough to eat! Thousands flocked to hear His compassionate words and came away uplifted in spirit by His example. Jesus’ most famous parable is about the Good Samaritan who helped a man that was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. He ends the story by telling His listeners, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
This is reflected throughout the New Testament. “And let us consider,” says the writer of Hebrews,“how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25 English Standard Version).
I have no idea if the bus-driving encourager was a Christian, a person of another faith or even had no faith at all, for that matter. All I know is that, wittingly or not, he affirmed for me how one person’s good nature had a ripple effect on an entire busload of passengers.
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