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Saying Hello

By David Mackenzie

Dread is maybe too strong a word for it. Fear isn’t quite right either. Perhaps trepidation is appropriate. Whichever word you choose, I would rather the gaggle of teenagers had not got on the bus. It seemed like there were at least thirty of them, in reality it was only about ten or fifteen. They made up for their deceiving numbers by their ludicrous volume and raucousness. I had several bags with me as I was returning from a night at home, back in Glasgow. Rather than kindly asking for me to move one of these, one of the girls made a muted, snide remark, assuming I couldn’t hear with my earphones in. I should point out that before they arrived on the bus, it was half full, I am not normally in the process of taking up prime seating area with my bags.

Once they had all eventually got a seat – despite their attempts, the toilet did not count – we attempted to leave. I must stress the word attempted here. If you have a keen eye like one of the young gentleman who was not journeying with us, you may have noticed a small switch on the external side of the bus. Located in different areas on different buses, this switch is called an engine isolation switch. Believe it or not, if I understand correctly, this switch “isolates” the engine from the electrical power supply. Yes, you guessed it, this cuts out the engine. Just as we were ready for the off, we must begin the whole process from the beginning. Unfortunately for the young chap outside, who had also been making inappropriate signs with his hands, the driver did not find this process quite so amusing.

In the end our journey was able to continue with our new found friends. I don’t think anyone who was on the bus before now joined in to the following choruses of the cha-cha slide and “y-t”…presumably standing for the same thing it does in Glasgow: “young team”. If the effect was to give me a sense of nostalgia harking back to my days growing back in Glasgow, going to school in the lovely area of Anderston…they were not successful.

A short eternity passed. They departed at Dunfermline, and so this leg of our wild Saturday night was over. It had been loud, disturbed, somewhat frustrating, obtuse, obnoxious, other annoying things…. Until next time, kids.

Yesterday I was running a little late to the morning service at the Baptist church which is held in Madras college on Kilrymont road. So as not to disrupt things, I decided to sit upstairs rather than hunt for a seat downstairs. From here you have a vantage point over half of the congregation, seeing clearly who is there. The same can be said the other way round, you are less the inconspicuous when seated upstairs.

As one of the singings ended I noticed one of my dear friends, Nicole, heading out of the service downstairs. I assumed she must be taking the Sunday school kids this week – or something similar. A minute later, I heard the door behind me opening, but I didn’t connect the two in my head. Nicole appeared next to me and sat down beside me as she had seen I was by myself.

She may not have noticed at the time but I was genuinely touched by this small gesture. She had looked up and noticed me. She had seen I was alone and so gave up her seat between others to come and join me. The simplest of actions and yet it had a more profound effect on me. Just by this I felt loved, I felt less alone, I was happy that one of my best friends had joined me.

The only thing that might seem to connect these two events on first reading, is me. Perhaps you, like me, recognise a difference in the approach these two individuals took to others. The first could easily be seen to be a stereotypical St Andrews student, annoyed at those less fortunate than himself. He is maybe arrogant, not as compassionate as he would wish to think. He didn’t try and understand these kids, instead he judged them. I agree with my first impression still. These kids were being rude, inconsiderate, loud, and annoying. I recognised though, that I judged these kids before realising that this was their form of entertainment.

I could see a hoard of them getting on to the bus and instead of immediately moving my things – as I would have done for most people – I hoped they would not disturb me. No matter who it was, I should have welcomed them with open arms.

Nicole acted first. She saw I was by myself and she came to sit next to me. Some would maintain that it’s a lot easier to go and sit beside one of your friends, than to welcome a crowd of boisterous, cantankerous, teenagers. So many young people can indeed be intimidating. I would not say that what my friend Nicole did was easy though. There was no need for her to come and sit beside me. She gave up her seat with others to come and sit beside me, above the rest of the people at church.

I realised while I was still on the bus that I had judged these kids too quickly, and no matter how frustrating they might be, they were not going to have a significant impact on my day, let alone my life. It took Nicole’s example though to show how I should have approached them. A small act of kindness, but its impact was far greater. Next time I see someone by themselves, I am going to remember what it feels like to be alone, and then I’m going to remember what it’s like when your friend comes to sit beside you. 

Tomorrow if you have a lecture, try something: sit beside someone new. Don't just sit 1 or 2 seats away from someone, as it's not only annoying for the people who come in late but it also allows you to be a little more social. Just say hello, how are you? It might help you, but maybe more importantly it might just make the other persons day.

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