A man was travelling in a bus one day. He was amazed at the behaviour of the bus conductor. The conductor was very relaxed and smiled at everyone as he dealt with them. He always rang the bell at the right time, so that the bus would stop at the right places. And when the passengers paid for their tickets, he always gave them the right change. No matter how crowded the bus was, or how badly the passengers behaved, his self-composure was never disturbed.
Having observed all this, the man asked the conductor, “How is it possible for you to always keep smiling in a crowded bus like this? I have never seen anything like it! Tell me, what is your secret?”
The conductor smiled and said, “There’s no great secret to it. It’s simply a lesson life has taught me. Before taking this job, I worked in a factory. I had to travel to and from work by bus every day. Whenever I waited for a bus, it was my experience that the bus never bothered to stop at the right bus stop. It would pass me and stop a little farther away, and I’d end up running after the bus; but before I could catch up with it would start again. Or if the bus did stop for me, it would take off with a start the moment I had stepped onto the bus and I would have to struggle to keep my balance in the crowd. And then, after I had paid my fare, the conductor never bothered to give me my change. If I asked for it, he’d get angry. And if I didn’t have the exact change, he’d scold me. On many occasions, I was about to lose my temper. But I somehow managed to control myself, thinking that I would have to travel on the same bus the next day as well. Because of these unpleasant experiences, when I reached the factory I was always in a bad mood. I never smiled at my fellow workers. I was never kind or loving towards anyone. My attitude caused people to be indifferent towards me. Because of all this, I couldn’t concentrate properly on my work; this often led to my being rebuked by my boss. In the evenings when I returned home from work, I vented all my frustrations on my family. I scolded my children and quarrelled with my wife. The atmosphere at home wasn’t peaceful at all. I didn’t show my children any love, nor was I able to open my heart to my wife. Thus I felt very lonely both at home and out in the world.
“Then one day when I came to the bus stop, the bus had arrived but it began to move before I could reach it. When the conductor saw me trying to catch the bus, he rang the bell, signalling for the bus to stop again. I got on the bus and, to my surprise, he waited for me to get inside before he signalled for the bus to continue. All the seats were occupied, but the conductor gave me his own seat.
I had never seen this conductor before. I was speechless with joy and gratitude. I was so tired that I fell asleep along the way. When the bus reached the place where I was supposed to get off, the conductor woke me up.
“You can’t imagine how comforted I felt by his kindness. It was like a gift of cool, fresh water for someone dying of thirst. His kindness and consideration gave me tremendous inspiration. As I walked from the bus towards the office, I experienced within me a joy that I had never known. In contrast to my usual sullen manner, I smiled at everyone in the factory. And they responded by smiling at me. That day I worked with diligence. Noticing this, my boss congratulated me. The workers under my supervision were clearly happy because I was so pleasant towards them. They, in their turn, behaved completely differently towards me; they were really friendly. When I came home from work that day, I spent some time with my wife and children. I felt so at ease with them and showed them so much love. I hugged my children — something I hadn’t done for a long time. It was like a festival. I was so happy.
“I realised that a great change had taken place in me because of the simple kindness of just one person. From that day on, I was very careful about my attitude towards people and how I behaved towards them because I knew that whatever we give out will come back to us. It would be impossible for me to change for the better if I were first to wait for everyone else to change. I realised I could choose to be good, regardless of everyone else; and that once we change for the better, it has a positive effect on those around us.
“Soon thereafter, I got this job as a bus conductor. I remembered the conductor who had transformed me, who had changed my life. I remembered the great lesson he had taught me. I vowed that I would always behave in a loving, respectful way towards everyone. I made the decision that I would contribute my share of spreading love and brother/sisterhood throughout society. I will never forget that bus conductor and how he affected me.”
My children, society is made up of individuals, and the thoughts and actions of each individual influence the culture of that society. Instead of waiting for others to improve, we should try to improve ourselves. And once our attitude has changed, we will be able to perceive goodness throughout world. If there is a positive change in us, it will also be reflected in others. It is only what we give that we can hope to get back. We should always remember this.
The heart sends blood to every cell of the body, and in this way the cells are nourished. The same blood then flows back to the heart. If the flow is obstructed, the person will die. We need to learn this process of give and take from the heart. For the benefit of others, and also for ourselves, we should have the attitude of sharing and giving. We are all links in the chain of life. If one link is weakened, it will affect the strength of the whole chain.
Our every thought and action has the power to bring light or darkness into the lives of many. So we have to be careful that our actions are the kind that bring joy and satisfaction to others. We shouldn’t fall into a state of despair when we see the evil in the world. Nor should we allow the wrongs done by others to encourage us to do similar wrongs. Instead of cursing the darkness, let us try to kindle a small lamp. If we can’t do this, let us at least refrain from causing others any discomfort.
You may wonder how this can be practised in our day-to-day lives. One way is to perform all our actions as an offering to God. We should make our every action a form worship. This will give joy to others and will benefit us as well.
Amma remembers something that one of her children said to Her about 15 years ago. He had a strong wish to study medicine, but he failed because of the difference of one mark. He was so disappointed that he didn’t apply for anything else. Later, because of the insistence of his family, he wrote a test for a position in a bank and was given the job as a clerk. It was then that he came to see Amma. He said to Amma, “I am always in a bad mood. I easily lose my temper. I never smile at the customers or treat them particularly well. I even doubt that I will be able to continue with this work.”
That son was very depressed. Amma said to him, “Son, suppose a close friend of yours were to send someone to you, how would you behave towards that person?”
“I would do my duty.”
Then Amma asked, “Son, suppose Amma Herself were to send someone to you. How would you behave towards him?”
“I would treat him extremely well; I would be very loving towards him because You had sent him.”
Amma said, “That shows that you can do it. Imagine that every person who comes to you has been sent to you by God. Then you will be able to be pleasant and loving towards everyone. Just make the effort and you will definitely succeed.”
From that day on, there was a remarkable change in him. He now had the attitude that his work was a way of worshipping God. This made him happy, and he was able to transmit his joy and satisfaction to others. If we perform each action as a form of worship, it will benefit not only ourselves but all of society as well.
(Stories told by Mata Amritanandamayi Devi)