I have a very short commute in to work now. Now that spring’s here (in a way), I’ve started walking in again. It usually takes me about 30-40mins, but this is probably because I walk freakishly fast for a woman (I’ve been told). Continuing the theme of Xena Warrior Princess you forced me to introduce in to my last post (y’all knows y’all selves) you should see me walking with other people – male and female. They are practically always panting for breath as I power on without breaking a sweat! Things to do, places to be, you know?
I was running slightly late this morning so I hopped on the bus as I sometimes do. I settled in to my seat on the top deck and didn’t feel like reading. There’s no point really as, based on past experience, just as I am getting settled into that ‘zone’, all too quickly the ride is over and I have to get off. Instead, I settled down for some guilt free, pleasant spacing out. The top deck of the bus was virtually empty, but at the next stop, a few more passengers got on. A young boy, about 17-18 if I was to hazard a guess, climbs up the stairs and sits about 2 rows in front of me. As he settles down and the bus moves off again, my nostrils are suddenly assaulted by the smell of his ‘cologne’. It’s cheap. And as lads that age are wont to do, he has been rather heavy handed with it. So much so that I can now taste the fumes at the back of my throat. I make a mental note of this, resisting the urge to gag. His phone rings.
‘Hi, Mum’, he says in his white-boy-trying-to-speak-black accent (as made popular by Ali G). ‘I’m on the bus now and I forgot the earrings, mum. Sorry’.
His mum speaks on the other end.
Boy – I was on the phone to the Probation and I forgot to take them
Boy – Are you sure? Is that ok? I’m sorry.
He says sorry a few more times, and then hangs up and I’m strangely touched by the sweetness of the exchange even though I’ve only heard one side. A number of things strike me:
1. He’s wearing a hoodie.
2. He has some bling in one ear.
3. He’s clearly been in trouble (hence the telephone conversation with the ‘Probation’ alluded to)
4. He possibly has identity issues as demonstrated by the Ali G-esque accent and the fact that he ends a second phone conversation with the word ‘Safe’.
5. He loves his mother.
Suddenly, i'm curious to know his 'story'. Who is he? What has he done? What's his Mum like? Where is he off to? And a myriad of other questions.
I ponder further and it strikes me how disconnected we've all become from each other...Were we actually ever connected to each other? Who is 'we'?
I have a 'big heart' (that's just a stone cold fact, nothing else), and therefore have a strong and compelling need to connect with others on a level beyond the superficial. In my late teens/early twenties, i came to learn the hard way, that 'big-heartedness' is seen as a sign of weakness and it's human nature to attempt to exploit perceived weakness. And so i swung to the other end of the spectrum, and became 'well 'ard' as they say here in the UK. But i could never really deny who i am.
Repeat a pattern of behaviour long enough and it soon becomes a habit. Habits are notoriously difficult to break. These days, i'm learning to not be so hard. If i'm to be honest, it wasn't really a case of becoming hard, as it was a case of choosing to smother feelings of empathy or compassion by refusing to act on them. I realise now that my temperament/personality/character is crucial to fulfilling my purpose here on earth (and i do believe we are all born with a God-ordained purpose), and so i've learnt to love myself and free myself from the chains that come with comparing myself to others or wanting to be like others in anyway. I'm exactly who and what i need to be. Nothing more, nothing less.
I have this bad habit of staring at people. I do stare at people. Not because i have no manners, but because i have this need to look beneath the surface. Always. Don't get me wrong, i don't go around staring at random people. There is a method to my 'staring', i suppose. Being very intuitive and able to pick up on subtle nuances and signs that people give off, when i pick on on something, i need to explore it further and in the process of turning my focus inwards, i may forget that i'm actually still looking at the person as well as looking into them, in a manner of speaking. Yes, i do realise i'm probably painting myself out as some kind of weirdo, but anyway...
Fast forward to the present day though, i often ask myself what i'm meant to do when out of the blue i experience such rushes of empathy towards a totally random youth in a hoodie on the top deck of the Number 30 bus? And the answer just came to me right now - as much as i would love to go up to them, place a hand on their shoulders, look them deeply in the eyes and say something like ' i feel your pain' or 'would you like to talk about it' or something else along those lines...all i can do is pray.
And so tonight, Lord i pray for the youth on the bus, in a hoodie, with a earring, wearing cheap cologne. Be with him and his Mum. Help him get his life back on the straight and narrow. Watch over him and keep him . In Jesus' name. Amen