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Leroy’s on the bus tonight. He rides often. Time passes like nobody’s business when he’s around. Tonight we’re in spirited conversation, gesticulating like a couple of Italians. We pause as the next group of passengers boards.”Hi,” the male half of an incoming couple says. “We’re homeless and don’t have any money and we’re trying to go to Seattle Central College ’cause it’s a good safe place to sleep.”
“Here, I’m gonna give you two transfers, just in case,” I reply without a moment’s pause. “Thank you for being honest.”Ten minutes later. Leroy mentions the couple, now sitting in the back, and how he could feel for them. He’s been there.
“You know what I just realized, or what’s hitting me now?” I say.
“What’s that?”
“For them to ask us for a ride like that, the way they did, took a lot of courage.”
“Yeah, for him to say, ‘can we get a ride to Seattle Central because it’s a good …'”
“‘… good safe place to sleep,'”
“Yeah. Man. That takes some bravery.”
“Especially ’cause you know the number of times they’ve probably been burned by other drivers who’ve said no, or been rude or something.”
“That was outstanding. I’m glad it felt good enough in here, I mean I’m glad they felt comfortable enough to ask me.”
“Oh man yeah, I feel for them.”
“I wanna give them food or something. I still have another sandwich.”
“You want me to take it back there?”
“That would be awesome.”
“I’ll give ’em the rest of my chips and queso.”
“Oh, this’ll be great. Tell ’em it’s from us. And tell ’em this peanut butter sandwich is good, I don’t mess around when I make that stuff!”
“Okay!”He returns from the back, saying, “I just told ’em it was all from you.”
“Oh, you didn’t have to do that! It was you too!”
“Aw naw man, I don’t like taking credit for that.”
“Dude, it was you who suggested it, man. Or maybe it was both of us. Anyways, Leroy, you are awesome. You are awesome!” I emphatically pound the steering wheel. He’s smiling into a laugh now. I continue, bent on making my point: “‘Cause your reason for doing stuff like that is not to get a bunch of … you know how after Hurricane Katrina happened, and there’s celebrities goin’ down there to help, except they got a big camera crew following them around,”
“So everyone knows they’re helping? It’s such a bunch,”
“It’s bullshit, man!”
“It is! I mean it’s nice they’re helping, yeah okay, but the whole camera crew being there changes the whole thing. They’re just down there so people will see them down there. And when you be doin’ this stuff without wanting any kinda recognition… oooooh, that warms my heart. Or, so hey, there was this supervisor at the base I ran into recently.”
“He was taking, he was transporting one of those white supervisor vans up to North Base, but before taking it up there he was gonna wash the van and vacuum out the insides and everything. And here’s the thing, he didn’t have to do any of that. He was just supposed to transport the vehicle up to North Base.”
“Yeah, he didn’t have to do any of that, vacuuming,”
“Yeah, and here he was goin’ out of his way– and the thing is, nobody probably would’ve noticed, no one was gonna know he took the extra time to clean it and everything. They’re not gonna look inside at the floors. He only told me ’cause I asked him what he was doin’. And I thought, that is so awesome. He cares. What is it, conscience is how we behave when no one’s watching?”
“That’s awesome.”
“Yeah it is. So anyways, thanks for bein’ that way. That’s beautiful!”As we arrive at the College the couple came up to the front. I remember a driver telling me once, “when people come all the way up to the front door to leave the bus, you know you’re doin’ something right!”
“Hey, we wanted to thank you for the food,” the man says.
“Oh my goodness, of course.” I dole out a few more phrases– it’s the least I could do, I’m happy to help, et cetera– and stressed how good that sandwich is– but I can’t take all the credit. “It’s thanks in part to this gentleman here.” Pointing to Leroy.
“Thank you,” the man says again.
“I appreciate you guys being honest,” I say.
“It’s hard to find good people around, and you guys are it.”
“Dude, thank you both, for being nice,” I reply. “We are happy to help.”
“Take it from someone who’s been homeless,” Leroy says, shaking their hands.
“Thank you,” they say in return. The short phrase carries multitudes. The three of them stand there for a still second, frozen in understanding and appreciation.

Afterwards, Leroy exclaims, “aw man, why you put it on me like that! ‘This gentleman right here.’ Shit!”
“Oh I got to! Hey man, you gotta take some of the credit! I can’t sit here and say it was all me! You know what’s amazing? They came all the way up here to say thank you.”
“Of course. I told you they was goin’ to!”
“And that guy was smiling, and you know, they probably feel a little bit better about people, about life right now, and it’s because we went out of our way. And that good feeling may last in them for ten minutes, or one minute, or the rest of their lives, and we made that little tiny difference,”
“Little tiny difference,”
“Which is a huge accomplishment. Oh man, that was good.”
“Yeah it was.”

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Article Author

Nathan Vass is an artist, filmmaker, photographer, and author by day, and a Metro bus driver by night, where his community-building work has been showcased on TED, NPR, The Seattle Times, KING 5 and landed him a spot on Seattle Magazine’s 2018 list of the 35 Most Influential People in Seattle. He has shown in over forty photography shows is also the director of nine films, six of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. His book, The Lines That Make Us, is a Seattle bestseller and 2019 WA State Book Awards finalist.