One morning my usual 9am was cancelled. So I slept in until 8:30, ate two bowls of cereal, showered, filled up the iPod you gave me with new music, and headed to the shuttle. I found a parking spot and walked to the shuttle stop and got there just in time. I was actually a few minutes late, but two people on the bus were in automated wheelchairs so the bus driver had to fold up the seats and unfold a mechanical ramp, to fasten their chairs down with strap attached to little hooks on the floor. I didn’t see any of this happen except for the shuttle re-folding its ramp and hiding it back as stairs, but when I was on the shuttle I saw the seats folded and the straps fastened.
The two people in wheelchairs were a woman and a man. It’s hard to guess the woman’s age, she could have been anywhere from 18 to 35, but she had a youthful, round, pale face and she looked warm, like she was smiling somewhere underneath her face always. She was wearing a black and white wool beanie sort of hat, and it was clear that she had no hair, and she only had one leg. She looked content though, in a way beyond describing. The man was older, in his 70’s or 80’s, and wearing a blue hat that had written in gold “RECON marine”.
Sitting across from me there was a Japanese girl. She must have been in High School, wearing a school uniform and she had braces. She sat down with a pikachu backpack on her lap and put her computer case on the floor. Then she looked up and I was looking at her, and she saw that and looked away, and then looked right back and she smiled at me. Then she pulled a sheet of paper from her backpack and began folding it. It was the most delicate, exact, perfect use of human fingers I can imagine. I just sat staring at her hands.
I thought of how much she had memorized, how her hands themselves memorized the deft tiny movements. How her parents or grandparents or some teacher had sat next to her as a child and they would just fold paper into fascinating shapes and objects. After a few minutes she began almost peeling back the folds, opening them up and I saw that she had folded a rose. A perfect incomprehensible paper rose.
I kept staring at her hands as she pulled out a narrow strip of paper, folded it quickly and tore it into smaller pieces, and I watched her fold three tiny cranes. When she finished the third crane she sat it on the seat next to her along with the other cranes and the rose. Then she picked them all up in her hands and held them with her two palms open and looked closely at the little treasures and she took a crane and reached to the woman in the wheelchair and set the crane on her leg. The woman smiled and she made a gesture of thanks and held up the crane to look at and only smiled and smiled. Then the girl reached across and handed another crane to a man two seats from me and he did the same. The entire trip I had been watching her fold these and I wanted to have one so I could remember, or so I could just hold one, because it was all beautiful and then she turned to me and smiled and offered me the paper rose.
I held the paper rose like a baby bird. I looked up and smiled thanks to her three more times. All of this was wordless, no one said a single word. Then the shuttle arrived and everyone left. The girl hurried off the bus and ran her way. She was gone and so was everyone else, probably to never be on the same shuttle again.
The story is simple. And the most beautiful things all are. Make something you believe in, something you find beautiful, and give it away. Give it to a stranger. We almost never realize how powerful and unsmall we are, but we are.