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HomeLocal & StateMore than a bus stop, More than a smile…

More than a bus stop, More than a smile…

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By Lara Dedmon

“We rise by lifting others.” This quote is from an article I just read. It’s a story of a chance encounter between two people in a small town back in 2017. Though I just discovered this; apparently, it was posted on Twitter years ago. In this article, I found a correlation between the heart of this story and what a bus stop means to our town here in Brooksville, Florida.

This story from 2017 illustrates how hope and love for others are innately inside all of us. It shows how a way of seeing things through the lens of hope and love for others can take us from one level of understanding someone to a higher level of understanding and relationship with someone. Our perspective and emotions are vehicles of transportation taking us to intangible destinations in our lives, while vehicles like cars and buses take us to physical destinations every day.

So, the first part of our story begins with a beautiful young black waitress working two jobs to pay for college in Washington, DC. This waitress is an avid supporter of social justice who’s used to standing up for what she believes in. The name of the restaurant is “Busboys and Poets,” a cafe that is a social justice friendly environment with ethnic minority role models plastered on the walls.

One day some Texan men, who happened to be white, walked into this cafe. This was during the weekend of the presidential inauguration as well as the Women’s March in DC. The waitress, Rosalynd, was one of the 500,000 women who turned up to march for what they believed in during that January 20th weekend in 2017.

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As the three Texas men entered the cafe, all donning red baseball caps signifying their Republican status, they felt the silence in the room that came with their arrival. Jason, one of the men who is a dentist and an extremely patriotic family man, motioned to his friends to take off their caps in order to respect the obvious history of this restaurant. As Rosalynd walked over to these men, she greeted them with a warm smile, and they happily reciprocated. As she took their order, Jason asked her what her favorite item on the menu was, she said the avocado panini was delicious, which swayed his lunch decision to her recommendation.

This started a friendly conversation between the waitress and the men, sharing bits of information about their lives with one another. She joked with them that they didn’t appear to be locals, and they agreed as they told her they were from Texas and had come for the Presidential inauguration.

Jason also asked her to explain a bit about the restaurant’s history. She obliged, telling them that it was named after the poet Langston Hughes, a key figure in African-American literature.

After these men finished their meal and said their goodbyes to their waitress, Rosalynd returned to the table to pick up the check and payment. She noticed the check was covered with words, and she realized that it was Jason who had written this note. Rosalynd read, “We may come from different cultures and backgrounds and may also disagree on certain issues…(but) If everyone would share a smile and kindness like your beautiful smile, our country will come together as one people.”

Rosalynd turned the check over and looked at the bottom and couldn’t believe it when she saw that Jason had left her a 625% tip on a $72.60 bill. That’s a $450.00 tip. That monetary gift, an expression of gratitude for her warmth in an environment that could have been unwelcoming to these obvious outsiders, was received with joy.

At the end of this story, it was revealed that when asked about their encounter that day, they both saw it from the same perspective. When they reflected back on that chance meeting in January 2017, Rosalynd, as well as Jason, discovered that they had more similarities than differences. They each stated that preconceived notions of political beliefs or racial ideologies were barriers to authentic communication. They further shared that they were both thankful that those issues had not impeded what they experienced that day, along with the other two men at the table near our Capital in Washington DC.

Now, for the second part of the story…the bus stop. This is something I became aware of as I’ve been attending the Community Planning meetings for South Brooksville. There have been many issues discussed by South Brooksville community members, city and county employees alongside PHSC staff, and other interested Hernando County residents, like me, around the table at these meetings.

In listening to these discussions, there was a specific topic that resonated most with me. It’s about the bus stop. This community of people desired to have another bus stop with a bench and shelter on Martin Luther King Blvd in order to help some disabled residents not have to walk such a long distance just to get to a bus stop. The county and the city both listened to these residents. Ideas, concerns, and discussions with all parties were addressed for several months at these meetings. Words became action, and plans became progress. Voices became conversations, and that’s what these meetings are all about. The result of this particular discussion was that on Monday, April 3, 2023, a new bus stop was added to the Purple Route near the corner of Muhammad Ali Way and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The reason the idea of a bus stop piqued my interest was that, though I don’t currently have to ride the bus for my mode of transportation, there was a time when I did. For a handful of years, when I first moved to Florida, I did have to rely on the bus. I was renting a place with some friends from my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. At one point, we lived in Largo and then moved to North Redington Beach. We all worked in different towns at that time. One friend worked in Clearwater, one in Seminole, one down on the Beach, and I worked in Largo.

There were times I had to walk between a half mile to one mile between the bus stop and/or my final destination of either my job or my house. I worked long days, and the Florida heat and afternoon rain showers were a lot to take at times because the bus stops where I lived usually didn’t have sidewalks, covered areas, or a bench. Despite the limitations of having a bus as your sole mode of transportation (other than friends offering rides to the store or to events at times), it wasn’t really that much of a hardship for me because I was young and very energetic. It just became “habit” to have to ride the bus, it became my “normal.” It was also easier to deal with because I knew that I was working toward being able to buy a car and wouldn’t always be dependent on public transportation.

But, I think about people that are either in their golden years, are physically impaired, or have young children with them that may have to ride the bus not just for work but for groceries or to go to the library or to see their family. That’s when I more completely understand how important the location of a bus stop can be. How having a bench and shelter from the heat or rain can make a huge difference for someone who has no other choice than to rely on the bus for transportation.

With that in mind….I just want to wrap up the correlation that I saw between the Washington DC story and the new bus stop on Martin Luther King Blvd in South Brooksville. As I said in the beginning, Hope and Love… That’s the link. That’s the motivation. That’s what I see as the importance of having accessibility to the bus, to help people in their daily lives and to help them maintain as much independence as possible.

As for me, I wasn’t a resident, I don’t currently ride the bus, I’m not in charge of any department involved in the decision-making…BUT I showed up to every meeting, I listened, I learned, I spoke up when I thought I could add to the conversation, and most importantly, I care. So, what I was inspired to do was to write down my thoughts about this and share those thoughts in this publication in hopes that someone reads this and is inspired to connect the dots between a need that you see or hear about and being part of the conversation to help each other in the big and the small things within and between our communities.

So, that’s what I see for the future of relations between people who don’t look the same or come from the same backgrounds… For that waitress, it was her smile and her obvious caring for others that

broke any imagined barrier between these people. For that man, Jason, it was his words of understanding and inspiration, along with a more tangible expression of his appreciation for her graciousness, that pushed through any negativity that may have been initially present.

It’s love for our fellow man…as we are all creations of God and were built to love others. So…. it’s not just a bus stop, it’s not just money, it’s not just words…it’s so much more… it’s Love… 🙂

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