Once upon a time, I was a college student in Chicago, commuting my way via commuter bus into the city from my south suburban home.
It wasn’t a fun ride – if you got to the stop too late, you would probably have to stand for 40 minutes. If I tried to read, I’d get nauseated. If I did get a seat, the likelihood of someone using my shoulder as a pillow was a slight, but possible chance (and once in a while, a reality.) But it dropped me off closer to the college than the train, so bus it was.
One day, we had a new driver, who didn’t know the regular driver let us ding the bell to get off before the main stop. So when I dinged the bell at Balboa, he stopped, but chewed me out for stopping the bus before an approved spot. It was one of those days where the bus was crowded, I had been standing, and now I was getting yelled at by the bus driver.
I went to walk up the few blocks to the college, in an only slightly sketchy downtown area, and there, as usual, were two bums under the L tracks, panhandling. Nothing really new. But I was in a bad mood and flat broke, and now I had them hitting me up for money. “Got any spare change?” one asked as I passed by.
My 19 yr old self said in an exasperated and slightly whiny tone “No!”
And then the homeless man who spent his days sitting under the L tracks gave me a big smile and say “Aw cheer up! It’s not that bad!”
I was slightly mortified.
A homeless man told me to cheer up.
And so I cheered up. Because dangit, when a homeless man tells you to cheer up, that it’s not that bad, then you listen to that truth and cheer the &%$! up.