If you live in the city the blog title was probably enough to make you tune out. Stop Press – woman catches bus. boring !
But in the country this is actually quite a big deal.
In the country, at least where I live public transport is NOT in abundance. In fact, getting from A to B is the underpinning issue of countless community conversations that I hear all through this (Mid North Coast of NSW) region – and beyond.
So today I caught the bus. But there’s a great luxury in getting a bus because you WANT to, not because it is the absolutely essential thread that connects you with what is essential in your life. I sat on the bus in my plush seat and I let the conversations surrounding me enter my consciousness and I wondered what it would be like if a $2.50 red ticket was a lifeline to getting stuff done.
On the bus I listened to stories about people’s strategies for the day – one was traveling the 1.5hrs in hope of getting in and out of an appointment quickly enough to get the next returning bus (there are four buses per day on weekdays), another also hoped to skip off the bus into a shop to return some goods then get that same bus back. Many were on their way to specialist medical services and other facilities that just weren’t on offer in our much smaller village.
As the journey went on I learned about people who had tried to recover lost goods – one a motorbike and get it onto the bus, brawls and violence on the last bus of the day (at 5pm).
But there was something else happening on that bus. People were communicating. They were sharing experiences, showing empathy, having a laugh and providing one another with support. You’d have thought that they were all BFFs but as the conversation rolled on I realised that while there were common connections (it is a small community after all) the five or so in the conversation didn’t really know each other that well at all.
So while this post is certainly a dig at the lack of transport in the bush and the disruption and lack of access to opportunity and services that can cause people – it’s also comment about building community, how stopping and taking the time to have a conversation can make such an enormous difference in someone’s life. In our society we’re so often lost in our own problems, drama that it’s too easy to forget to treasure the company of others even if they’re strangers. To take the time to enjoy a good conversation, and to remember that no matter how big the problem there is someone out there that cares.
It’s also comment about making judgements about people’s lives from the point of view of a mere tourist. I could have read a thousand things into what I heard on the bus but underlying that were people just getting along talking about the things that matter most to them. I’ve come to believe that people know what they need to move forward and sometimes they are really very happy exactly where they are, thank you very much. It’s just the perception of their lives that our eyes see that makes their lives ‘disadvantaged’ or wrong in some other way.
Of course there is real disadvantage, poverty and everything else that goes along with that and I’m sure that there isn’t one person on the bus that would have happily jumped into a car if that was on offer. But there was something about the people on the bus on this day that reminded me how important it is to connect with other people. Maybe there had been some hard lessons learned along the way but everyone was very forthcoming with advice, support and connections to a broader network of help. Maybe this is what could happen if people were empowered to support one another accept each other for who they already are.
After doing my business in the neighbouring town I finally arrived home thoroughly exhausted from the extra effort the day brought, and even though the conversations kept me going I imagined if this was my every day and how I would put off jobs, health, shopping because it was just too time consuming. I thought about how dis-empowered I’d feel without that freedom and how that bitterness could easily seep into my life. And I only participated in half of the journey.
Tomorrow I’ll set off again this time by myself in a car. And I’ll be wishing that I had the opportunity for a good conversation to keep me going down the highway. And the post wouldn’t be complete without a dare – If you’re a country dweller how about you give it a go. Jump on the bus, I’ll love to hear about your journey.