Sometimes riding the bus after a full day of work is a relaxation, especially when the week has held too much new information to process quickly. Getting from point A to be without worrying about the traffic gives time to slow the mind and let it rest. It is also an interesting place to watch people.
Most of the trip on Friday was uneventful. Having dropped my car off at the shop for my seasonal tire changeover and some brake work, I would have about a 35 minute ride across town to an evening appointment. Securing a seat by a window and near a door, the trip to the appointment was uneventful giving me time to process what I needed to have ready for the meeting.
The way home was a different story. My seat was nearer the front close to the seats that lifted up to make room for strollers. Filled and emptied several times on the short trip, I enjoyed watching most of the interactions between parents and children.
The last mother to fill that space entered the bus with a larger family, many of who sat in the available seats further back in the bus. The talk from there was the noisy rise and fall of words when children were in the group. It was a sound I was used to in my classrooms so formed a music of its own.
As the family reached the stop a large early preteen led them to the front of the bus. He walked over to the mother with the stroller and putting one of his arms in a light lock around her neck bent it forward. Using his other hand to press the muzzle of his blue toy pistol to her neck he said in a “playful” voice, “Get going, bitch.”
Then he just walked on swinging his toy pistol playfully in the air and no one in the group, including the woman who joined the family in leaving the bus said a word or even showed a reaction. My last sight of him as they drove away was of the blue pistol up in the air being waved around as if it was an invisible extension of his hand.
The horror locking my throat at the casualness of his action and the lack of any comment from his family carried me back to the news that had rocked my memories earlier this week. Another act of violence had impacted the lives of some I knew. It was a violence from the past that had come to light. This one had cost a life. It was not the first death of someone within the circle of people close to those in my family. And not every act of violence led to death. My heart was raw with memory as I watched the scenario unfurl.
I struggle to find a mindful center in the midst of the knowledge of the past and the fear of the future for the one I see on that ride. I am frightened for children I see who have such a casual view of violence. I am as frightened for those like the woman whose face did not even react to the words the boy said to her.
Somewhere along the way I developed a moral compass that says actions that choose to harm or degrade another person are wrong. For the most part, I see others who have some understanding of that same standard. What this boy did stood out because though it resonated with some of my memories, it was not a steady part of my world.
These thoughts lead me to my mindful gifts for today –the knowledge that I can choose to witness peace in the way I interact with others. I can understand the impact of the past and recognize my fears for the future without them affecting the way I live my todays in relationship to others. With that moral compass I can live each moment true to the center of who I am and stand in support whenever I can for others who do not live in safety.
I must admit, I am also thankful for the gift of prayer because I don’t know what else to do for that woman and the boy who is learning the words and stance of violence. Or for those whose lives have already been changed by the violence of the past.