It was supposed to be a regular, boring 4-hour bus trip from Warsaw to Wrocław. Squeezed somewhere between a window and doors, watching tall bold pine trees on the highway because the wifi wouldn’t work and I forgot to buy the latest National Geographic.
I’ve done dozens of journeys like that. The last one was supposed to be even less pleasant. We arrived at the bus station in the last second and, due to some problems with the vehicle, we didn’t get our booked seats and had to find random ones. However, five minutes after I sat down I realized that this trip will be very special.
A man meets a woman. The woman is in her 60s, the man is in his early 40s. One of them started a casual conversation, like Sorry, are you also from Wrocław? Or Do you prefer to sit by the window? I can swap places. Unexpectedly, the dialogue which, normally, would end after a few minutes, started to bloom, increase, develop and grow. 240 minutes later these people say goodbye to each other as if they are the best friends, exchanging phone numbers, and sending hello to each others’ relatives. What happened?
Would you believe me if I told you that they have never seen one another before and, perhaps, will never meet again? Still, during this 4-hour bus trip, they told each other almost their whole lives. Shared the most impactful stories, complained about what hurts them and praised what makes them happy. I was sitting in a row just in front of them so, wanting or not, I heard all the conversation. No, I didn’t have any headphones with me so I couldn’t shut my ears even if I wanted to. Yes, at the beginning, I really didn’t feel interested in what they were talking about. However, after 30 minutes the relationship was born. With a natural journalistic curiosity, I trusted my hearing and started to discover this bizarre yet fascinating situation.
Obviously, I am not going to describe you their whole lives. Even though I haven’t even seen their faces and it’s not really likely anybody could recognize those people from my article. Simply, I respect their right to privacy. Let me just mention that both of their lives were marked by tragedy, trauma, challenging relationships, sickness, and love for the closest relatives. For the sake of this article, I will call the woman Glinda, and the man Ted.
During the conversation, Glinda and Ted exchanged many opinions. I caught three of them that I consider being definite life truths and one that’s a lie to me. Check it for a good dose of inspiration or if you need to restore your faith in humanity.
Truth #1: Being busy saves you from drowning in tragedy
When something horrible happens, life will never be completely the same. You need to learn to live with it. Some people find themselves ‘surviving’ or getting through each day with no joy. Both Glinda and Ted know what it means to lose somebody in their lives. Both of them struggle to make amends with fate.
At the same time, they both agree that making yourself busy and putting your mind to something constructive can be a life savior. Sometimes I think that, given what happened recently, I should be crying all day and cursing the fate. But I don’t have time for it among all the business of life, said Ginda. There was no turning back; I either had to put myself together and go through with rehabilitation, or I would never be healthy again. For me, there was no option than to keep fighting, shared Ted.
They both gradually realized that the strategy of being busy definitely brings results and uncovers the curtains of pain to let some light into the daily life.
Truth #2: If you want to change your life, change your environment
Ted grew up in a region in Poland where people were very close-minded. They didn’t accept a diversity of any kind. Being different than a neighbor (and that includes religion, ambition, education, looks, or sexual orientation) draws a mark on your face; a mark that people will show with their fingers and make disgusted faces about. However, he found out that when he moved to another region and another small town, people were totally different about approaching diversity. They didn’t mind to share kindness with somebody that has different opinions about life. They all managed to live in peace.
This is not a matter of moving from a village to a big city; the population of both towns is more or less the same. It is the lifestyle and type of people’s professions that are different. He could have been suffering his whole life in an extremely unfriendly environment but luckily, he changed his life (and increased happiness) just thanks to changing the place he lived in.
Truth #3: It will be all right; it HAS TO; there is no other way
Sometimes, when I have a worse day, my grandkids ask me: ‘Grandma, why are you sad? Are you sad? What are you worried about?’ Then I smile at them and say: ‘It’s ok. I am not sad. I will make a chocolate cake for you.’
Even though Glinda is still grieving a recently dead, close family member, she knows she cannot fall into sadness. There is so much more to do and so many dear people to care about.
Ted shares her experience. I was in a hospital bed and saw that the doctors want to put all the machinery back again inside me. I didn’t want that so much that I decided to get better, immediately. It worked. They didn’t stick anything in me anymore. I knew I HAVE TO improve my health. There is no other way because I want to live very much.
Lie #1: Sometimes it’s better not to speak up because you never know what you may hear from others
Here goes the funniest part of the story. We were already approaching the final stop in Warsaw. Ted and Glinda finished with their sharing and were just commenting on their newly discovered ‘relationship’. Thanking each other for being a great company and for having this long and very meaningful conversation. They also expressed a positive surprise on how lucky they were to find another person who would be so kind, open, and friendly in telling their own life story.
Glinda was just recalling another situation on a train when nobody spoke to each other the whole trip, even if all passengers were sitting in one small compartment. Sometimes it’s better not to speak up because you never know what you may hear from others, she laughed. And I thought: Come on, she cannot possibly believe in what she has just said. If she followed this rule, she would never speak to Ted in the first place.
I guess all we need to create beautiful relationships, is courage, curiosity, and an open mind. And a few hours to kill, for example during a long bus ride. I was so happy that I forgot my earphones, my magazine, and that I had to take another seat. Sure, I would probably have a peaceful, comfortable trip; and I’d forget about it the minute I’d step down from the bus.
This trip I will never forget. Two random people, sharing so much about their lives, such extraordinary lives, and showcasing the wonderful and natural skill of having an honest conversation with somebody. It was the greatest inspiration I had in weeks and I am deeply grateful for it.
Have you ever had a similar situation? Maybe next time, you could be Glinda or Ted and create an unforgettable, pure moment of honesty with a complete stranger? To me, that’s the next big (accepted) challenge.
For more stories related to personal development, daily challenges, and tricks for improving the quality of life, check my 20 Challenges Theory.