For once, it seemed, we were all prepared. I had announced several times that we were catching the 12:15 bus to Jerusalem to celebrate the Pidyon HaBen (Redemption of the Firstborn ceremony) of our new grandson. I glanced at my clock – 11:45 – and issued another reminder. “We need to catch the bus in 30 minutes! Everyone hurry!”
“Did you remember to pack the sachets of garlic and sugar?” I asked my daughter as she passed by.
“Yes,” she assured me. “They’re in the blue bag.”
Good. My husband and son (father of the new baby) had each called to make sure I had not forgotten to bring the sachets. These are traditionally placed around the baby at the time of the ceremony. I had accepted their reminders silently. But I was inwardly shouting: “Are you kidding? Forget those bags we worked so hard on? We had to search for sugar cubes, find nice lacy bags, ribbons then assemble, curl the ribbon, get more bags No, no, no, we would not forget those gorgeous bags!”
It was 12:10. “Ok! Let’s go!” I called out. But what did I see? No one was really ready. Everyone was almost ready. We sprung into high gear, and I began chasing kids out of the house. We live about 20 meters from the first bus stop, and the bus was already there.
“Oh, can you wait one minute?” I asked, as the first few children boarded.
“No!” replied the driver. “What am I – a taxi? It’s time to go.”
Unfortunately, my watch was a minute behind his, so I thought we had time. However, as I stalled him a bit with my questions, everyone else came tumbling out of the apartment, and we all made it onto the bus. Baruch Hashem!
But as soon as we got in, problems surfaced. “Where are the baby’s clothes?” cried his mom. It seems that she had forgotten some of his clothing at home.
My teenage son, Ephraim, approached me with a question, “Mommy, did you give Moshe 200 shekel to buy the bus tickets cards for us? He’s too young. The bus driver doesn’t understand him, and can’t figure out how many paying passengers we are. Let me take care of it.”
I realized he was right and gratefully let him see to the fares. Meanwhile, we were trying to see if one of the other guests could bring socks for the baby, making calls back and forth.
As we were about to leave the city for Yerushalayim, I started to look for something in my bags. “Hey! Where are those sachets? You said they were in the blue bag. I don’t see them!”
“I’m sure we put them in. Oh! Which bag did you take? There was another one right near it, and that’s the bag we put them into!” my daughter said in dismay.
“Ephraim! Quick! Get off the bus!” I called out to my responsible, competent son. “Run home and get those bags! And the baby clothes! And catch the next bus at the last stop! Here is a cell phone! Run!”
Run he did. And while we were still busy with calls and settling things down, he scampered home, got the bags, and caught the next bus! As we were waiting for the elevator to the catering hall, Ephraim showed up with sachets, baby clothes, and all. We all arrived on time, and had a beautiful Simcha.
When all the excitement was over, Ephraim asked me, “Did you get the change from the bus driver?” In all the commotion, I hadn’t given it a moment’s thought. “When I bought the tickets,” Ephraim continued, “the driver gave me change from 100 shekel, and said I could get the other 100 from him after more people paid. I ran off the bus and told one of the kids to get the 100 shekel. Did she?”
It turned out that she had forgotten. And in the tumult, so had I. When we returned home, I called the bus company and inquired as to when this same driver would be on the route again. I decided to try my luck, but the bus company denied responsibility of any type.
It certainly is handy to live right near the first stop. At the appointed time, I ran out and saw the driver. I explained what had happened. He remembered us right away.
“Lady,” he claimed, “I gave 100 shekel to your daughter with the curly ponytail. Ask her.” I decide not to argue, but to double-check the accuracy of his claim. My pony-tailed daughter denied having gotten anything from him. I didn’t know what to do. I felt there was no use in arguing with him. I decided to write a letter to the bus company. Perhaps they would get involved.
A few days later, as I sat down to write the letter, my daughter-in-law said she was leaving for Jerusalem. I decided to help her out to the bus, and who was the driver? My old friend. I didn’t know what to say when I saw him, but he asked me, “Well? Did your daughter have the money?
“No,” I answered, wondering what he would say or do next. Surprised, he brought it up again.
“Listen,” he declared. “Here is what I will do. I will count up all the money for this past week. If I have an extra 100 shekel, it’s yours!”
Well that sounded very reasonable, and I graciously agreed.
A few days later, whom do I see again? Yes, Mr. Bus Driver. I walked over to the bus, and said, “Well?”
Imagine my surprise when he said, “G’veret (lady), you were right!” and he handed me my 100 shekel.
Surprised, moved, impressed. As I thought about the entire incident, I mused that although I know nothing about his upbringing or what caused him to behave thus, I do know that working in our neighborhood, where the denizens are yirei shomayim and shomer mitzvos, he must have seen countless examples of honesty. I have heard of instances where bus drivers have offered special rate cards, and the passengers insisted on paying full fare; where drivers assume a young person is still a youth fare, and the passenger corrected him and paid full fare, and of course, just the fact that people are not trying to get a “free ride,” literally speaking.
And isn’t that our true calling? To serve as a light to all. May we merit to perform many acts of Kiddush Hashem, and thereby exert the greatest influence for the good on all people.