The bus rattled on monotonously into the chill winter's morning. Reflecting the repetitive murmur of the traffic, the pas- sengers sat locked in their own clamor of everyday thoughts as if their fellow passengers were miles away. Here a young businessman late for the office sat planning his next move up the corporate ladder; next to him a pensioner on his way to the early morning market, his thoughts lost in the glories of yesteryear; over by the door a group of office girls excitedly discussing their latest romantic conquests, lost in dreams of tomorrow.
At the bus terminus, a new conductor came on duty into this miniature world. His face showed that he had seen much of the world and his eyes bespoke hard experiences suffered in foreign lands before newly arriving here. Immediately he moved to fulfill his drab duty of collecting fares from hands automatically extended from behind newspapers, as subdued voices mumbled their destinations. Like a river of light gliding between these dark islands of private thought, the conductor moved sharing a joke with the young businessman, a warm greeting on a cold day with the pensioner, and a few words of amusing advice on life for the office girls which had them in fits of embarrassed laughter.
Pretty soon the whole bus was filled with smiling faces jokingly predicting what the conductor might say or do to alleviate the tedium of the next passenger he encountered on his rounds. The smiles and laughter engendered by the conductor's antics were carried by the passengers into the world of bustling commuters flowing around the bus. Ring! Ring! and the bus was gone, carrying its messenger of good humor to cheer other travelers fortunate enough to pick his bus.
At this time of year when we are bombarded with messages of peace and goodwill from every shop window and TV advertisement, how often do we stop and consider our opportunities to express those grand ideals of the ancient Sacred Season in daily life? Like the bus conductor who sought to bring a little laughter into his passengers' lives, we all have opportunities to overcome the myriad illusions engendered by selfishness and to contribute to the forces of light at work in the world. The awareness of these opportunities demands a constant revision of our attitudes so we can see the positive aspects of the challenges life presents.
Those exalted individuals undertaking the spiritual initiations of the winter solstice achieved their fitness for these great trials through aeons of altruistic service, and anyone can enter upon the path epitomized by the Christmas spirit if his or her will, devotion, and yearnings are directed towards being of greater service to others. The path of spiritual attainment in the cause of universal brotherhood is not far away across the mountains of the future; it is here and now in the choices we make each day. Like the bus conductor, even if we have what may be viewed as a humble station in life, we have an appropriate arena in which to develop selfless habits which one day will lead to grander opportunities for helpfulness to humanity.
(From Sunrise magazine, December 2002/January 2003; copyright © 2002 Theosophical University Press)
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There is an idea abroad among moral people that they should make their neighbors good. One person I have to make good: myself. But my duty to my neighbor is much more nearly expressed by saying that I have to make him happy — if I may. — Robert Louis Stevenson