True story. So I'm walking deliberately to the bus stop – the type of walk you do when you're late for the bus: Occasionally I break into a jog for a half block, not really wanting to break a sweat, and not really wanting to look like a fool, but also not really wanting to miss the bus. If I miss this bus, I will certainly be late for a meeting with an old boss. He's forgiving, but I have no good excuse other than my all-too-typical habit of insufficient preparation time. I feel silly and annoyed that this is not the first time I've been walking deliberately like this to the bus stop. “This will be the last time.” I declare to myself.
I speed walk through the labyrinth shortcut in the mall, smoothly gliding around oncoming shoppers. I burst back onto the street. GO Route 16, QEW Express to Union Station is already stopped and has its door open 100 paces away. The choice: bolt left for the bus or make a run for the next stop, farther away, but on the other side of two stoplights (which, with a little luck, would be red for the bus and free of cars for an emergency illegal foot crossing by me). Either is a risk. There's no time, so I go with my gut. I throw away my concern both for sweating and for looking a fool and break into a full sprint to the right, away from the bus.
I check over my shoulder as I run, and my heart sinks as the big green bus gains on me. The light was green. My gamble failed. I hold my gaze on the bus for an extra moment, hoping that the driver notices the sprinting fool and takes pity on the longing in my eyes. He passes me, slows, and swerves towards the stop. My heart lifts!
Just then, 20 steps before the stop, I feel my backpack become more jiggly and suddenly lighter. The zipper has come undone, and I've just dropped 3 books onto the sidewalk. "Ai, the drama!" I turn back to find a man sprinting after me, waving my umbrella, which had fallen out half a block earlier. Worried the bus will pull away again, I collect my books, say a hasty thank-you to the man, turn and bolt for the finish line. “Go! Go! Go!” Umbrella Man shouts. I arrive at the bus door, out of breath, but a smile finally on my face. The driver is chuckling at me.
So what's the point? Three points, I think:
One: When something is important, it's worth allowing extra time.
Two: When the pressure's on and we have a clear goal, we stop worrying about looking like a fool and start doing what we need to do to get the job done – an effective strategy.
Three, and most important: Two people inspired me that day to be a better person: 1. The bus driver, who had no personal incentive to stop the bus, but did so out of kindness and empathy, and 2. The Umbrella Man, who actually ran after me to ensure I got my junky old umbrella back. I wondered if I would do that. Would you? I wonder what the world would be like if everyone did stuff like that?
True story. How's that for the kindness of strangers?
February 5, 2009
“I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
- Etienne De Grellet
Joel Hilchey speaks and facilitates workshops across North America, empowering students, educators & business leaders who want to build stronger, more positive teams and communities. Contact him by phone at 1-877-487-5635 or check him out online at www.joelhilchey.com!
RIDDLE: While driving through town, the view clears as you wish. In a popular song, I go swish, swish, swish! What am I?