Editorials by Robert Kirwan

All It Takes Is One Person…Be That Person!

   We are now in the middle of the happiest season of the year. Everyone loves Christmas. You can be happy and joyful and it seems as if all of the cares of the world are put on the shelf for a while. Try to hold on to the memories of how good you feel during the next few weeks whenever you are around people who liven things up with happiness. See how quickly a room full of quiet people can break into laughter when one person brightens up the room. Happiness is contagious, and all it takes is one person to lift up everyone’s spirit. Remember the feeling and carry it forward into the New Year. Let me share a story with you that is called “Flowers on the Bus”. It was written by Jean Hendrickson.
   “We were a very motley crowd of people who took the bus every day that summer, 33 years ago. During the early morning ride from the suburb, we sat drowsily with our collars up to our ears, a cheerless and taciturn bunch. One of the passengers was a small grey man who took the bus to the centre for senior citizens every morning. He walked with a stoop and a sad look on his face. Every day, with some difficulty, he boarded the bus and sat down alone behind the driver. No one ever paid very much attention to him.
   Then one July morning he broke the silence on the bus when he cheerily said good morning to the driver and smiled short-sightedly at all of us before he sat down. The driver nodded guardedly. The rest of us were silent.
   The next day, the old man boarded the bus energetically, smiled and said in a loud voice: “And a very good morning to you all!” Some of us looked up, amazed, and murmured “Good morning,” in reply.
   The following weeks we were more alert. Our friend was now dressed in a nice old suit and a wide out-of-date tie. The thin hair had been carefully combed. He said good morning to us every day and we gradually began to nod and talk to each other. Soon the once silent bus was filled with chatter and laughter as the old man’s cheerfulness rubbed off on all of us.
   One morning he had a bunch of wild flowers in his hand. They were already dangling a little because of the heat. The driver turned around smilingly and asked, “Have you got yourself a girlfriend, Charlie?” We never got to know if his name really was “Charlie”, but he nodded shyly and said yes.
   The other passengers whistled and clapped at him. Charlie bowed and waved the flowers before he sat down on his seat. Every morning after that Charlie always brought a flower. Some of the regular passengers began bringing him flowers for his bouquet, gently nudged him and said, shyly, “Here.” Everyone smiled. The men started to jest about it, talk to each other, and share the newspaper.
   The summer went by, and autumn was closing in, when one morning Charlie wasn’t waiting at his usual stop. When he wasn’t there the next day and the day after that, we started wondering if he was sick or – hopefully – on holiday somewhere.
   When we came nearer to the centre for senior citizens, one of the passengers asked the driver to wait. We all held our breaths when she went to the door.  
   Yes, the staff said, they knew who we were talking about. The elderly gentleman was fine, but he hadn’t been coming to the centre that week. One of his very close lady friends had died on the weekend. They expected him back on Monday. How silent we were the rest of the way to work.

   The next Monday, Charlie was waiting at the stop, stooping a bit more, a little bit more grey, and without a tie. He seemed to have shrunk a bit again and lacked the energy he had before. Inside the bus was an eerie silence akin to that in a church. Even though no one had talked about it in advance or planned anything special, all those of us who he had made such an impression on that summer, sat with our eyes filled with tears and a bunch of wild flowers in our hands.”
   Most of us can name a person who makes us feel alive and happy when they are around. Happiness is contagious. All of the passengers on the bus in the story were miserable every morning on their way to work. All it took was one old man saying hello and showing that he had a zest for life to change the mood on the bus from one of sombreness to one of joy and delight. People no longer dreaded the ride to work, but rather looked forward to it.
   Next time you find yourself among a group of people who are in down or in a depressed state, try to liven things up with a little bit of happiness. See how quickly others join in and lift themselves up. All it takes is one person. Be that person.
   Have a good week!


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