I was riding the bus one evening and suddenly a bunch of texts started coming in fast and furious from two different friends – intense and upsetting for completely different reasons.
So I was sucked into two simultaneous texting conversations, both of them emotionally fraught, typing with my finger (not using the phone microphone because that wouldn’t have worked well on the crowded, noisy bus), when the woman in the seat in front of me turned around and asked in a distressed, zoned-out way, “Is this stop coming up Grand and Union? I need to get off at Grand and Union.”
I had no idea where Grand and Union was. I didn’t even know there was a Union Street in Portland. I muttered, “I think we’re approaching Grand but I don’t know where Union is.”
“Because I really need to get to Grand and Union,” the woman repeated, clearly distraught.
I continued texting.
The woman sitting next to me (a stranger), having witnessed this interchange, took matters into her own hands. “You need to get to Grand and Union?” she asked the disoriented woman in a kind tone.
And she proceeded to speak to the bus driver on the confused woman’s behalf. “Excuse me, driver, this woman needs to get to Union and Grand. Where should she get off? Does she have to transfer? What bus should she take?”
I was so absorbed in my texting dramas that I was only vaguely aware of a small network of support that had spontaneously coalesced around the bewildered woman. She was being taken care of by people other than me.
I felt a little ashamed and guilty for not having tended to her myself. I was sure that the woman sitting beside me, who had initiated the full-on rescue, had quietly judged me for being a self-centered, checked-out clod.
But later I realized that that assumption – the assumption I was being judged – was merely a story in my head.
The true takeaway from the episode is that there are kind people everywhere, stepping in spontaneously to do all sorts of necessary things.
Occasionally, from my ego’s perspective, it feels like they are “covering” for me when I’m indisposed. Actually, kind people are “covering” for me all the time, continually, in all sorts of places, “filling in” in ways I’m utterly unaware of.