When I got on the bus this afternoon, during rush hour, a man offered up his seat to me. I thanked him and sat, while he barely managed to grab the railing above to steady himself. As the bus lurched forward, he smiled down on me, a toothless grin, and asked if I was okay. "Yes, I'm fine, thank you" I said, as my head shook back and forth.
We didn't exchange any other words, but every time I looked up at him, he was looking at me. My short, ten minute bus ride consisted of me glancing up from my sunglasses to find him smiling his toothless grin down on me. I noticed his shoes had no laces, and the rubber was peeling away from the toe on one of them. His hair was a greasy silver, slicked back, except for one little tuft by his left temple, that he kept trying to push back into place. He carried two yellow plastic bags filled with groceries in one hand, and holding on for dear life with the other. He was bone thin, and his skin was wrinkled. He was probably about 65.
While I sat there taking all of it in, I remembered a topic that's come up in group a lot. If you could take all your problems, and put them in the center of the room, with everyone else's problems, what is the likelihood that you would take back your own problems? The majority of the time, we all say we'll take back our own issues.
When I got off the bus and started walking home, I started thinking about what the man may have been thinking of me. Did he notice my new"ish" sneakers, my teeth, my sunglasses that go over my glasses? Or did he just see a young woman who wouldn't stop shaking her head? I wondered if I had asked him if he would trade "problems," would he give the standard answer?
In the two hours since I've gotten home, I haven't stopped thinking about the man. While I was taking off my sneakers I walked in all day, I thought about the old man's shoes, and how grateful I was to have such nice ones. When I was eating dinner, and carefully aiming my mouth toward a forkful of rice, I wondered if the man was eating, and again I felt grateful, for Dad's delicious leftovers. While I held my electric toothbrush to my teeth, creating a foam without having to move my hand, I thought about his toothless grin, and how thankful I am to have a full set of teeth. As I type this, I wonder if the man has a computer, or a phone, or a family to go home to, and I feel blessed that I do. What I'm slowly beginning to understand is, that despite how much it sucks at times, life could always be worse.