“I’m so happy I met you”
On a stifling bus ride in Texas, taking the time to connect
By Jo-Ellen Karstens
While on vacation one summer, I took the bus for a six-hour trip across Texas. Since I was one of the first to board, I took a seat up front, with the intention of doing some translation work. As the bus began to fill, the seat next to me remained empty. I was very happy, thinking about how I could spread out my work.
Just as we were leaving, a young man raced up to the door and took the first seat — the one right next to me — still sweating and holding his heavy backpack and skateboard on his lap! We exchanged a few pleasantries. He told me he had been up all night, so he leaned on his backpack and quickly dozed off. I was delighted to be able to work, even if I was a bit cramped.
Then the thought came to me, “Here you are translating some beautiful thoughts about living the Gospel and spreading love and unity, and you don’t even have time to talk to this young man!” I decided right then and there that when he woke up, I would engage in conversation with him.
Sure enough, he was not very comfortable and soon woke up, so I offered to change seats with him so that he could lean against the window.
He thanked me and then asked if I was a teacher correcting papers. I said that I was working on Italian translations. His response was totally unexpected: “I love Italian! I went to Italy on a mission trip and I want to go back and learn about the language and culture!”
So we started talking about learning a language, immersion courses, and how important it is to be open to other cultures. He asked if I had visited other countries and was fascinated to hear of my travels and life in other countries.
“That’s what I want to do. I want to go around the world and help people, to get to know them and their needs.”
We talked for a good hour into the trip, as the bus was getting hotter and hotter. I didn’t think much of it, but after the second hour, it seemed to be stifling hot. In fact, the driver pulled off the highway at an unscheduled depot, got out and was checking something in the back of the bus. He was very apologetic when he got back and said that the AC was broken.
By then we were all becoming less talkative and were looking for a way to keep cool. A lady across the aisle gave me her Mickey Mouse fan, and a young man behind her asked me, “Are you okay, lady? You look a little sick …” People tried to open the windows, but that just let in more hot air.
I was starting to feel quite ill and when we finally reached the next depot; I felt confused and weak. I went into the air-conditioned waiting room and got cold water from the drink dispenser, buying an extra one for another lady who didn’t have a credit card to use on the machine.
Just then, my young friend came bursting in, looking for me and saying: “Come on! All citizens can get on another bus. I’ll help you get your bags!”
I was really confused thinking, “What? Are we crossing a border or something?” But when I got outside, I heard the driver calling out, “Senior citizens only on this bus.”
We were approaching the luggage compartment, and as I claimed my bag, my young friend said: “Oh, your papers are still on the bus! Those papers are important! I’ll get them for you!”
I was so grateful to him because I truly felt dizzy. When he accompanied me to the next bus, he said: “I am so happy I met you! You gave me inspiration! I want to be like you — you are a role model for me.”
I told him I would pray that he found his dream and we hugged and said goodbye. Of course, it goes without saying that I too was very grateful that I had stopped my busy-ness to get to know him and share his journey to fulfill his dream.
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