Last week, I took the bus to downtown Hamilton and back to campus. I rarely take the bus, but it was cheaper and faster than trying to find and pay for parking downtown. On the way back to campus, there was a lady sitting down, slightly overweight, huge bifocal glasses, scarf, and wearing layers of sweaters. She seemed shy and timid, so I was surprised to hear her say all of a sudden to random people on the bus, “What makes you better than me you a**hole,” and “why don’t you turn away you stupid little sh**.” Or just a simple “f#%@ you a**hole.” Yup, that’s exactly what came out of her piehole. I just stood there with my usual awkward look, eyes wide open (or as wide as I can try to get them open–because I have small eyes) and looking around with my head completely still. At one point, she said the first comment to a guy who just stepped onto the bus, and he looked half-startled, half-annoyed as he quipped back, “What, you talking to me??”
What makes this story really interesting is that there was another lady sitting next to her; she looked like she would be Aunt Betty or something. She turned and said to her, “Why do you think that?” with the kindest tone of voice I’ve heard in a long time. The angry lady just sat there with her head down. Aunt Betty didn’t give up and pressed again: “No one thinks they’re better than you.” Silence, except for the rattling of the bus. “What’s your name?” Silence. “My name is Betty,” she continued. (I forget her real name, so we’ll just stick with it.) The angry woman finally lifted her head a bit and said in the softest voice that would make you wonder if she really had been verbally assaulting her fellow bus riders. “Shirley.”
“Why, that’s a beautiful name you have there, Shirley.”
“Thank you,” she replied, her head still slightly down as if she was the sheepish person on board.
“Shirley, no one thinks you’re worse than them. You seem like a beautiful and nice woman. Why do you think this way?”
She replied by lowering her head, expressing remorse at the profanities she had just expressed a few minutes ago.
They continued to talk, Aunt Betty asking some penetrating questions and giving the whole bus the impression that she actually cared about this stranger. I’m being facetious, she really seemed to care. As they talked, I noticed a young girl sitting a couple seats away, watching their exchange as well, with a huge smile on her face, the same smile I probably had. Then my eyes started getting moist. Shirley, whatever the professionals may have diagnosed her as, probably suffered from some sort of twisted view of herself. Maybe she was severely abused in her past and held onto an inexplicable anger that manifested itself in verbal assaults upon strangers. Maybe she was verbally (and probably physically too) abused as a child and has to work through false perceptions of herself. Who knows? But what I do know is that Aunt Betty, by showing an unprejudiced love to this lady in showing her genuine interest in her, turned an angry woman on the bus, to someone who received her love and interest in her.
I don’t know how it ended, because in the middle of their conversation, my stop came up and I had to get off the bus. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that a little bit of love in the direction of unwarranted love went a long way. Shirley didn’t deserve to get that nice treatment. She deserved what the guy said, “What, you talking to me?” Along with a “f*** you back, you stupid piece of….” She deserved to be cursed back at, but instead, a lady with intuition and interest showed her a bit of love and it turned her whole countenance around. If we all had that same kind of intuition and interest in other people, I’m sure we’d be doing what God wants us all to do: love your neighbor as yourself.