Passengers on a Winnipeg Transit bus were stunned Tuesday morning when their driver pulled over near the corner of Portage and Main, got off, removed his shoes and gave them to a complete stranger.
"Honestly, I was left speechless," said Denise Campbell, a passenger on the No. 24 bus. "I was thinking, 'Oh no, there's a problem, or maybe he's waiting for someone who's running to catch the bus.' Then he stepped off."
She described the driver as in his mid-20s. She's been on his bus before and says he's always very polite.
"He says 'Hey buddy' to the man. He's chatting with the fellow. They're about the same age. I thought he knew him. All of a sudden, the driver takes his shoes off. He hands them to the man. He gets back on the bus. He has no shoes on. He's just got his socks on."
The man on the street was wearing a jacket but was barefoot.
The incident was over quickly and then the bus was back in motion. Campbell said she had a tear running down her cheek, moved by the spontaneous act of altruism.
Campbell said another passenger approached the driver and asked him why he did it.
"He said, 'I just saw him walking and thought, "Hey, I could do something." ' "
What a simple, powerful statement. Hey: I could do something. Mull that over for a few minutes. It resonates.
Campbell works for the Winnipeg Foundation. When she arrived at work, she told her colleagues about the driver's actions. Then she went online to Community News Commons (www.communitynewscommons.org), a news site sponsored by the foundation, and posted the story.
Winnipeg started talking. By mid-afternoon, it was tweeted and reposted on Facebook. The story of a man who did something remarkable is spreading like wildfire. Campbell fielded media calls all day.
Winnipeg Transit would not identify the driver Tuesday. In an email statement, transit director Dave Wardrop gave the driver credit for his good deed.
"We have all been struck by the generosity and kindness of this Winnipeg Transit bus operator. It serves as a reminder of the compassion and commitment demonstrated by City of Winnipeg employees throughout the community on a daily basis," he wrote.
I asked the city spokespeople the obvious questions. Will the driver be recognized for his good deed? Or will he be reprimanded for an unauthorized stop and driving without shoes?
They responded by email:
"The driver's compassion and good intentions have been acknowledged."
Great. I hope the acknowledgement involves a parade and the keys to the city. This guy is an inspiration. Imagine if all of us took a second look at a person in need and said "Hey, I could do something." What a world we'd live in.
Floyd Perras, executive director of Siloam Mission, was delighted when I told him the story. He said the man on the street was likely homeless.
"I guess he (the driver) found a person in an impossible situation and decided to help him," he said. "I've seen people do that before. They'll take off a brand-new parka and drape it over the shoulders of someone who is outside and cold. You're the person on the scene and you take action."
Here's my proposal: Why don't we all give it a try? Instead of being naysayers, instead of condemning the homeless or walking past someone who is lost, in trouble or hungry, why not stop? Why not say "Hey, I could do something?"
If you think the panhandlers are all bums, do something for someone else. Hold a door open. Compliment a stranger. Give your shoes away if you feel moved to commit a spontaneous act of kindness.
It's easy to get lost in the tedium of everyday problems, in the sense that we have to blame the dogsbody of the day for whatever gripe we have with the world.
Repeat after me: Hey, I could do something. Start today. You can change the world.
Remarkable altruism observed
Today, as I was riding a Winnipeg Transit bus from Unicity to downtown, I did not realize that I would be a witness to something amazing.
The ride was, as usual, long and uneventful, until we reached the corner of Portage and Main. That's when the driver pulled over. This, of course, surprised all of the passengers on the bus. But, what happened next still brings tears to my eyes.
The bus driver jumped off the bus to chat with a man that looked to be down on his luck; by all accounts, a homeless man. I first thought the driver was going to offer the man a ride until our driver took off his own shoes and gave them to the man on the sidewalk.
That is when I realized that the man the driver was chatting with was barefoot. The bus was dead silent. I think we were all stunned and speechless. As we proceeded to our next stop, one of the passengers got up and said to the driver, that was the most amazing thing she had ever seen; and then she asked him, why did he do that?
The bus driver answered because he couldn't stand the thought of that poor man walking without shoes. Wow! No judgment; it was just, "Here buddy, you need these more than I do."
There wasn't a dry eye on the bus. All the passengers were moved by this bold and selfless gesture.
Now, a homeless man will have shoes for his feet because of a bus driver's random act of kindness.
Not bad for a Tuesday morning in downtown Winnipeg.
-- Denise Campbell, Community News Commons