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The Best $5 I Ever Saved


Aug 17, 2010
World citizen!
This morning started off like any other, me running late. I got up, got ready, packed my lunch and rushed out the door. Driving to the park and ride to take the bus to work I knew it would be close, luckily there were almost all green lights, as I pulled into the parking lot I saw the bus turning in. I quickly got out and ran towards the bus stand, fumbling with the car keys, I managed to lock and arm the car in stride. (Yes I have skills like that ;-)).

The bus door opened and I lined up behind a few people who were there before me, astonishingly there were a few people who even cut it closer than me and were standing behind me as well. When I got to the driver and it was my turn to insert the fare I handed him the $5 for the commute, to my surprise he handed it back.

At first I thought there was a mistake, and said “I need to go to final stop, that’s five dollars right?”, he responded with a nod, so I again handed him the five dollars.

He returned the money and said “You can take that back.”

There were a few people behind me so I didn’t know what was going on, as a guy with a long beard and turban, who has taken public transportation for years I am used to the stares and negative comments. I stood there for a second not knowing what to do next, I extended him the $5 again and said “I just want to pay for the fare to go to the last stop?”

To this he looked right at me and responded “This year we are all Sikhs, it’s alright have a seat”. I was surprised and shocked at his statement. It touched me so deep; I was joyous and saddened all together full with emotion. At that moment all I could utter was “Thank you so much”.

After I sat down I was holding back tears of how much compassion this unknown driver had showed me. We had never met before this, he didn’t even know my name, but what he said touched me.

I, like every Sikh in America, felt so much emotion after the Oak Creek, WI massacre. There were feelings of fear, of anger, of sadness all bunched into one. There was also some disappointment how could this happen in America, a country we have called our own for so many years? Many conflicting feelings, are we ever going to be accepted fully into the American fabric? Is shallowness and ignorance going to cloud, education and compassion? We all felt that, at some level or another. I sat there contemplating all that and remembered the feeling I had of America prior to 9/11.

I was a very proud American, still am! But I remember never feeling like I was not part of America until after 9/11, when somehow I became the face of what was considered the enemy, and from that point I have reluctantly silently still been very proud of this country. Yes it is not perfect, yes there are issues, and many of them are major, but what I really love about this country are the people. The somewhat working system that everyone was equal, and we all had abilities to pursue rights of equality and happiness. Though what has happened in the last decade plus dampened some of that feeling I still think that in the world there are very few diverse and working systems like the one we have in the USA, Canada and UK are the only other countries which come to mind of having multicultural working system of society and government.

I kept thinking of all these emotions the whole hour long bus ride to work, mostly I was thinking how to thank the bus driver for the compassion he showed me, and how much it meant to me as a Sikh American. When we reached the final stop I waited to be the last person to get off. I stopped before getting out of the bus and told the bus driver:

“What you said to me touched me deeply; it moved me emotionally and meant so much that another American would say that. I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart” at this point my voice was cracking and I was trying to hold back my tears.

He responded , “ It is needed, human to human we are in this together all of us, I really believe that… it’s no problem”

He extended his hand and as we shook hands I was reminded when complete strangers show compassion to one another in a society there is a lot of hope. As I turned around to exit the bus I wanted this moment to last, this feeling of two humans just recognizing that we all have feelings, we all have the same emotions and at times everyone needs just a nice word, which can make a difference in their lives. I turned around and asked him if I could take his picture, I told him I wanted to remember this moment, this feeling of gratitude that a complete random person was able to provide me. He smiled and said “Do whatever you need to do”. I quickly snapped a picture of him and wished him a nice day as I walked out of the bus.

What a wonderful thing we can do as human beings when we show compassion, how much it can change society if instead of throwing insults we were throwing praise, or uplifting each other, this is what America is really about, I felt the feeling of being blessed to be in this country returning to me.

Just one small statement from a complete stranger, who I only talked to me for two minutes, leaves such a profound impact, such is the power of compassion, "We are all Sikhs, we are all human"



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