in appreciation

When I got on a bus today, the driver was charming to me. We smiled and laughed a little over the exchange of money. Three rather elderly Asian ladies tried to push past me and he told them to wait - and if he was a little harsh, I thought perhaps it was just the way of his voice.

But as I sat down, he began lecturing them. Loudly, angrily. He told them all about good manners in a way no man should ever speak to a woman or older person. I don't know if they even understood him, as so many older Asians here can't speak English. I thought perhaps he was tired of seeing people push in the bus, but I felt embarrassed and hid my face.

Later, another Asian man embarked. He didn't know the exact stop he wanted on a particularly long road. The driver lambasted him. After the man sat down, an elderly woman stood to clarify the name of the stop he'd want. The driver yelled at her not to interfere and ordered her rudely to sit down. A while later, another older woman leaned towards the Asian man to speak to him quietly - the driver saw her, and yelled at her too.

I was appalled. I didn't know the details of where the man was going, so I couldn't help. I could only sit in shocked amazement at what appeared to be such blatant racism. Some time later, the man moved to sit beside me. He was gently polite, and I smiled at him. All the things I was too shy to say, I tried to put in that smile. We're not all mean and inhospitable, I wanted to tell him.

Then a young woman in the seat ahead of us turned around and whispered instructions to him regarding his stop. The older woman who had spoken up before also whispered to him across the aisle. The driver, who had been keeping an eye on matters through his rear-facing mirror, did not notice.

How wonderful to see wisdom and courage in action! None of the men on the bus had done anything - although can you imagine forty or fifty years ago, a man sitting in silence while another shouted at an elderly lady? But the women, they stood up, spoke up. And when that didn't work, they whispered.

When I saw that the older woman was preparing to disembark, I hoped it would be at my stop, as I intended to speak to her, thank her. But she got off a stop ahead. And only now, as I write this, do I realise that I could have spoken as she rose to disembark. I could have said, excuse me - thank you for what you did. I would have, if I'd thought of it at the time. I actually considered getting off at that earlier stop just so I could speak to her. But oh, shyness.

That woman would have considered me another silent bystander. I wish I told her what was in my heart. All I could do was smile, which is not enough. So I'm writing about it here, now.

She had an armful of wild flowers. And a heart full of love.


  1. This story breaks my heart. I too often find I am paralysed by usually shock at these kinds of situations. I just can't believe people can be so intentionally cruel. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. This is such a familiar scenario to me. You tell it so movingly, but it saddens me. And especially what you say about men not moving to help. There's so much I want to say about this - how frequently I see men turn away from defending others in very public situations - most often on public transport. Or simply ignoring the elderly, or the heavily pregnant as they remain seated, (after glancing at them arrogantly, dismissively). Men from all walks of life.

    And how frequently I see women, often older women, offer their seats or their assistance to those who need it. An incident here in Melbourne a couple of years ago involved a middle aged woman, a nurse, physically interceding in a situation on a crowded (peak hour) train platform when a man was assaulting his female partner, and threatening to kill her. He was unarmed, but the men - all of them - turned away. Pretended it wasn't even happening right next to them. Yet this tiny nurse called the police and intervened, putting herself at risk.

    I know so many beautiful men who would not allow these things to go by without speaking up. But I also wonder at the wider cultural and spiritual implications. I deplore macho, aggressive alpha-male behaviour, but there is the sacred masculine that - strength and protectiveness towards others - that seems to be absent, or diminished.

    I'm sorry - I didn't mean to hijack this conversation away from your story of courage and kindness. And that the fact of your shyness didn't make you unkind, or just a "bystander". It's just was the women. And I keep seeing this over and over. It's heartening on one level, but it also troubles me deeply. x

    1. Yes, that is exactly what gripped me so powerfully. I don't think I'll ever get over it. Honestly, I don't want to sound overly dramatic, but it was like a scene from a war. I saw the courage of the women - speaking up, even after another woman had been literally shouted down. I thought of the courage of women through all the ages. And my heart absolutely ached for the same reason as you - the loss of the sacred masculine.

      I understand that we don't want a return to macho, alpha male behaviour. And we certainly don't want a return to the idea that women are feeble and must be helped along by men. But that sacred masculine - the holy wild power of the old god - the hunter and protector - not the hero, just the Man, you know?

      This is one very strong reason I turned away from the wiccan faith. I feel there is too much of an imbalancing as we strive to seek balance. We need the power of the woman desperately. But we also need the power of the man.

      That story of the nurse - oh, heartbreaking, because it's so common.

      There is so much more I could say on this subject, but my comment is becoming longer than my post. Thank you for seeing what I was trying to say. It was the women. The young, beautifully groomed woman. The old woman in a hand-knitted hat who LEANED ON HER CANE as she stood up in a moving bus to speak for the bullied man. And the less-old woman who carried flowers, and had wonderful white hair, and who did not give up.

    2. Oh my goodness, could I be any more incoherent?! In my defense, its quite late here and I'm in the middle of writing about an imaginary women who is learning how women must be brave in all kinds of ways. So I'm a little ditzy :-)

  3. Oh I feel that shyness. There are so many times I want to speak up but choke. But I too have smiled, trying to put everything I felt into that smile. You write so beautifully, thank you. (And I still can't comment as me)

  4. It is only when people stand up that this kind of terrible behaviour will stop.

  5. A sad, sad happening...

    And I so appreciate your reader ( Antoinette ) who spoke of the sacred Masculine, who would not have let something like this pass, without standing up for the older people. And I fear also, that this is a dying breed. No one wants to 'get involved.'

    Plus, there seem to be so many deranged people out there... That to 'get involved' today, is almost like putting a bull's eye on your back.

    So, is it another failing of the Wonders, which are supposed to come, from our present, fast-paced and go-go-go life style? -sigh-

    No answers. -sigh-

    Gentle hugs,

  6. Oh, I can relate to this situation, Sarah. Sometimes I just hate my shyness. Though I often want to help strangers, there's this irrational fear I have about it.... this post is lovely. So lovely.

  7. Thinking about this as I washed the dishes, Sarah. I was imagining the scene, knowing all about that shyness, thinking that at 56 I wouldn't be stymied by it as I would have been earlier in my life-tho' I am not certain. But I also realized that the man came and sat by you, so I would say he felt safe to do so from what you were putting out-without words. And I've no doubt that the women you wished you could have spoken to would have understood all that you tried to put into a smile, and in other quiet ways. Just as you noted the wildflowers one was holding, I think others on that bus sensed what you were holding in your heart. We all give in our own way, not to say that doesn't change with the years or with circumstances. xo

    1. Thank you for such a deeply beautiful message, Lesley. <3