Never Judge Your Neighbours by the Bus They Drive

This story isn’t an easy one to write, because it means admitting to a side of myself that was…well, let’s just say I’m less than proud of it. But given the state of the world today and the events that are happening in communities everywhere, I think it’s an important one to tell. So here goes…

We used to do a lot of camping when our kids were younger. A little over 12 years ago, we took them to Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater lake island in the world which is just off the shore of Lake Huron. We set up camp in a lovely spot with a water view and spent a glorious few days exploring the many beaches and nooks and crannies on the island…

And then the bus arrived.

A big, yellow, school-bus-turned-camper, to be exact.1

I remember I was in the tent trailer at the time, preparing dinner, and when that bus pulled into the campsite beside us, my heart dropped. Because everyone knows that big, yellow, school-buses-turned-campers can only mean one thing, right? Undesirable neighbours. And when the bus door opened, my worst fears were realized. A large husky bolted out and ran down the road, and a gangly, dark-haired teenage boy followed in hot pursuit. A man emerged next, complete with long hair, beard, a generally scruffy appearance, and–to compound my consternation–very obviously First Nations.

In one snap judgement, every prejudice I hadn’t known I possessed rose, screaming, to my surface, and I leapt to the obvious conclusion that we’d just had a group from a halfway house move in beside us.

It was not one of my more stellar moments. 🙁

I bellowed for my husband, who was sitting at a table in the trees and hadn’t seen the arrival. The cop in him came with its own set of prejudices, but it also gave him the level-headedess I seemed to have lost for the moment. Rather than give in to my knee-jerk (and ridiculous) suggestion that we pack up (immediately) and cut our holiday short, he wandered next door to “assess the situation.”

Next thing I knew, he was chatting and laughing away with the man and his wife, our three daughters had joined him and been introduced a girl the same age as our older two, and we’d been invited for dinner…and I was humbled beyond belief as I got to know these amazing people.

No. Amazing is an understatement.

You see, it turned out that these ‘undesirable’ neighbours have travelled all over the world (and far more widely than I am ever likely to), homeschooled their three children (Heidi is a former school teacher), helped with construction projects in the poorest of Mexican villages….and that was just the beginning. Heidi and Ken are both gifted artisans. They create the most exquisite First Nations works, including wedding dresses (Ken tans the hides himself, and Heidi does the beadwork), mittens, drums, and jewellery. They are worldly, kind, beautiful individuals with a generosity of spirit that I can only aspire to. And they have become the dearest of friends.

And all this I might have missed because of a yellow school bus.

The universe held up a mirror to me that day 12 years ago, and it took a long time for me to come to terms with the ugliness I saw reflected there. A long time, too, for me to admit it to Heidi and Ken. We only see them once every year or so, but they’re the kind of friends that make it feel like you just saw them yesterday, so when they were in town for a show last week, we were thrilled to be able to have dinner with them one night and drinks then next. And as we generally do, we got to reminiscing about that long-ago camping trip–and laughing about my reaction to their arrival. Because while I think they were a little surprised by the halfway-house thing, they were otherwise unfazed by my admission when I got around to making it.

That makes me happy, of course, because I would have been sick beyond words if my appalling thought process had brought them pain. It makes me sad, too, because part of the reason they took it in stride is because they’re used to it–and that’s just wrong.  But mostly it just makes me feel blessed to have such generous people in my life.

I remember that generosity–and my friends–every time my inner freak-out child raises its unwanted head as it still does on occasion. Because I’ve learned that you never know who’s inside that big yellow bus…or those clothes…or that house…or that skin…

Actually, I do know. It’s another human being. And it seems a good time for the entire world to remember that.





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11 responses to “Never Judge Your Neighbours by the Bus They Drive”

  1. valerieraemillard Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this Linda …makes one assess their own reactions ?

    1. Linda Avatar

      The world would be a better place if we all did a little more assessing, I think.

  2. Debbie Suber Avatar

    It took courage to face yourself in the mirror, but more than that to tell your friends. The best things come in packages you least expect.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Very, very true.

  3. Darlene Duckworth Avatar
    Darlene Duckworth

    Thanks for this Linda… once again I am teary eyed…

    1. Linda Avatar

      I’m glad you found value in it. 🙂

  4. Rachel Cooper Avatar

    Lovely post (and reminder). Thanks, Linda.

  5. Alice Boschman Avatar
    Alice Boschman

    A good reminder of not judging
    a book by it cover. ( so to speak)

    1. Linda Avatar

      Exactly! 😉

  6. miki Avatar

    wonderful story thank you for sharing it and sorry for your loss

  7. Danielle Carter Avatar
    Danielle Carter

    Beautifully written. Words to think about. Great lesson and inspirational words. I am sure they are blessed for your friendship too.

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