An Issaquah School District school bus waits at an intersection near where a rally to encourage wider opening of in-person learning was being held, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Issaquah, Wash., east of Seattle. Students in kindergarten and lower-elementary grades recently returned to school in the district under a hybrid in-person learning program, but older elementary, middle-, and high school students are still being taught remotely. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Taylor: A little bit extra goes a long way

Columnist considers a world where we treat others as a ‘you’

The bus ahead of me stopped at the roadside. Although it wasn’t a school bus, just a regular BC Transit vehicle, a stream of young children gushed out the door onto the grass.

It might have been a daycare group or a kindergarten class.

After the last child, the shepherding adults got off.

By then the kids were celebrating their freedom from confinement.

They flung their backpacks on the ground. They romped around in wild disarray.

The adults tried to round them up, to gather them into a controllable cluster so that they could move on – probably on a field trip to someone’s orchard.

The bus driver could have driven on. All the passengers had left the bus. The driver no longer had any responsibility for them.

But the driver didn’t leave. The doors stayed open. The bus waited. Long enough to form a barrier between the kids off and any passing cars. Just long enough to make sure the adults had their flock under control.

Then, and only then, with a squish of air, the doors closed, the brakes released, the bus resumed its route.

As far as I know, no rules or regulations required that driver to provide that extra consideration.

That little bit extra. That little bit above and beyond what’s expected.

It makes such a difference.

It’s the nurse who takes a few seconds to hold your hand. The dry cleaner who remembers your name when you enter his premises.

The grocery clerk who leads you to what you’re looking for, instead of merely barking “Aisle 10.”

And if that little bit extra becomes the new norm, you find some other little bit extra.

Now, I grant you, there are times when you simply can’t afford the extra time. You’re already late for picking up your mother from her chiropractor.

Down the hall, you can hear your boss’ impatient “harrumph!” It’s starting to rain, and you left your convertible’s top down…

But so often, we avoid doing that little bit extra because it’s too much effort. Because, in fact, we don’t really care about the person we’re interacting with.

Over and over, I appreciate the wisdom of the German philosopher and theologian Martin Buber. Just under 100 years ago, he observed that we often treat the people around us as things. As objects. In his terms, as an “it” we have to deal with.

We have an “I-it” relationship with them.

Better, Buber argued, if we treated those people as a “you.” Or, again in his terms, as a “thou,” a more intimate level of “you.” As if everyone we met was a friend or a potential friend. Even, perhaps, a family member.

I would go further. Even “I-thou” separates us. I’d like to see us think in “we” terms. Recognizing that we are one common humanity, transcending race and religion and gender.

Indeed, one common life. Flora and fauna, sparrows and trout and pines and squirrels — we all live and breathe; we all have a beginning and an ending.

Each time we show a little bit of extra compassion and care for other life forms, we “love our neighbour as ourselves.”

Even when we’re just driving a bus.

Jim Taylor lives in Lake Country.

rewrite@shaw.ca