Melissa Beiser

The kindness of strangers

I have a pretty tried and true morning routine now that I’m in my fifth month of my MASA volunteer teaching program in Be’er Sheva.

I wake up at six forty-five, toss a Tupperware with dinner leftovers and maybe an apple or banana in a bag for lunch.

I throw on the clothes I laid out the night before.

I check my email and the weather as I’m selecting my coat and shoes.

I fill up my water bottle with cold water from the fridge and choose a tea bag to make when I get to school after checking at least twice that I have my class schedule and bus pass.

I brush my teeth and eat half a bar of chocolate with a few swigs of orange juice and then speed walk over to the bus stop down the street to catch the 7:15.

Last Wednesday had really seemed like every other Wednesday en route to school.

It took a turn for the weird when I got off my first bus and was waiting for my second bus to school (my school is a couple of neighborhoods away, a 40 minute commute).

Every once in a while, the buses will have more than one number on the side/front of the bus marking them. I’m not sure if they just forget to change out the signs or what it is but I’ve seen it before.

The bus I got on last Wednesday was marked 24 and 4. It had to be the number 4, I reasoned. I was waiting for nearly twenty minutes for the stupid bus.

After two stops though, I was already apprehensive and under the impression that I was simply not going the right way.

Sure enough, after I got up from my seat and checked the next bus stop, it said 24, not 4. I was on the wrong bus.

No big deal, I thought, I would simply get off of the bus at the next stop and catch another one back to the main bus stop where I can catch the right bus to school, the number 4.

I sat at a bus stop for only a few minutes, relieved when another 24 pulled up and opened its doors to me.

I was riding along peacefully, trying to stay calm, it wasn’t even much after 8:00, I could still make most of first period if I got to the bus stop soon.

When I saw the familiar panda welcome sign and green gates to my school, my heart skipped a beat and I got off at the next stop.

Was it really possible? Had fate led me to my school despite the wrong buses?

It was probably just some alternate route I didn’t know about, I mused, as I scurried down the sidewalks and towards the school.

As I got up to the gates, a security guard ambled over to greet me.

He didn’t look familiar.

“Who are you?”

I tried to explain in broken Hebrew.

He asked me in English for my ID and if it was my first day on the job.

“I’ve been teaching since September,” I explained, “this is Ben Gurion, isn’t it?”

“What? What town is it in?”

When I told him, he shook his head, “No, no, this school is not your school.”

It was wrong. I was wrong. His security guard uniform even looked identical to the ones my security guards wore at my school. I glared at the welcoming panda sign. How could he let me down? Stupid panda.

“Do you want me to call you a taxi?” He was nice, really. He probably felt pretty bad for me. My face probably fell at least a few floors below ground level when he confirmed that I was at the wrong school and in the wrong town.

“I don’t have money for a taxi.” I fed the last of my pocket change to the washer and dryer at my apartment and I rarely brought my wallet to school. Why risk it?

“Oh, okay.”

“If you could just point me to the nearest bus stop?”

He pointed and I followed.

A woman in a tracksuit with a ponytail started talking to me as we waited for the bus.

I explained quickly that I spoke English, not very much Hebrew.

She asked me about why I was in Israel.

I told her.

She started to say something about how much she loves Israel when I saw the security guard running from the school towards me at a rapid speed.

He probably wasn’t supposed to leave his post, I figure.

“You still need ride to school?”

“Yes but I told you, I don’t have money. Lo shekel.”

“No, is free! One of the mothers that dropped her son off lives in the same town as your school.”

I couldn’t believe it.

This guy was so nice. I can’t say he’s nicer than my security guard, Charlie, but man, what a close second!

I wondered if he and Charlie are friends and if they share tips for being great security guards and upstanding citizens.

The woman that gave me a ride to school was so nice.

Her car smelled like coffee and there was a little sneaker hanging from her mirror that reminded me of something my mom used to have.

She didn’t know how to get to my school but she asked the street sweeper for directions and he gladly assisted her.

I understood bits of their conversation that mentioned me as an American teacher.

When she pulled up right in front of my school, the right green gates and panda welcome sign, I didn’t know how to thank her.

No words I pieced together in any language could have expressed my gratitude or surprise.

How amazing it was to meet such genuine and caring people that just wanted to help me out and make me feel taken care of in this foreign land.

How sweet it was to have these strangers pool their resources to figure out to help me out and save me from taking another wrong bus or even worse, giving up on a still-full day of classes.

When Charlie came over with a confused look on his face overlapping his usual welcoming smile, I just grinned and told him, “What a story I have for you. It’s been some crazy morning…”

About the Author
Melissa Beiser has a bachelor's degree from SUNY New Paltz in English and creative writing. She hails from New York originally and recently relocated to Arizona with her family. Teaching English in Beersheba is her first experience living abroad.