Hey Bernie

One way to avoid the fierce New York City cold during the winter is to pop aboard the bus. I frequent the M16 where I learned to keep an open mind towards people who may seem scary or irritating at first. The M16 is normally packed, but nonetheless silent. Everyone aboard is plugged into an iPod or newspaper. No one even glances around, except when the bus screeches to a stop. During one such stop, a ten-year old boy hopped aboard with his father. The boy was screaming and crying, disrupting the peace inside the lounge on wheels. One woman behind me moaned, “If that were my boy, I would whoop him upside the head.” Another man chimed in, “That kid needs a beating.” I nodded. Not even the music resonating from my iPod could quell the screams that echoed up and down the bus’s silhouette. The boy’s ongoing screams felt like bricks breaking upon my head at the end of a hard day’s work. Finally, a man stood up from his seat and shouted at the boy’s father, “WILL YOU PLEASE MAKE YOUR SON SHUTUP!!!!!!” The boy’s father slowly turned his head upwards and stared at the man in silence for a moment. “His mother died. We just came from her funeral. He’s very upset,” he whispered.

At that moment, I realized that I have no idea what anyone is thinking. I have no right to immediately pass judgment on anyone based merely on appearances. After hearing the boy’s story, I started to change my attitude towards people I see on a regular basis. On the six train, for example, I regularly see a man scuttling across the train’s cars on a wheel chair. He often extended his Yankees cap and asked me for the spare change jingling through the bottom of my book bag. Burns scar the side of his face and his left eye barely opens. I used to gawk and revert my eyes. For three years that I saw this man at least every week, I never handed him a penny. After seeing the screaming boy’s story unfold, however, I wanted to understand the persona behind the four-wheeled figure. It turns out that Bernie, “that grimy old guy on the six”, took an IED to the face in Afghanistan and lost a leg in the process. Bernie’s the kind of person we could all learn from and admire. With nothing but a nonexistent leg to his name, Bernie came home from what he calls “a worthless war” to a nation on the verge of economic downfall. Despite facing many challenges, Bernie always looks to the bright side and has never given up on his dream of owning his former home in Queens again. He now works part time behind the counter at a corner store in midtown. I am glad that I finally started conversing with Bernie aboard the train. The boy’s cries inadvertently made my tiny world an enormous place.





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