Arriving at the bus stop, I give a wary eye to the two African men who were sitting on the metal bench. I went to the other side of the shelter and scolded myself for not having noticed my IPod battery was dead. Now, I had to make the return journey home being unable to block everything out. I shot a look at the two men and noticed one of them had stood up.
‘You sit here,’ he called over and waved his hand at the bench. In his other hand he held a small black-green book.
‘No. Thanks. I’m good,’ I replied.
I went to shake my head, but the slight desperation in his voice made me paused. I went and sat down. The cold metal sank straight though my jeans and I felt uncomfortable. Too districted myself, I turned to the man next to me and noticed his clean suit and small briefcase. There was also a name badge pinned to his breast pocket. I couldn’t read it.
‘You from around here?’ he asked in a heavy accent that struggled around the English words.
‘Yes. Just down the road. Middleton,’ I answered whilst wishing my IPod had power.
‘So you work? Where do you work?’
‘The youth centre. Just there,’ I added and pointed at the yellow and grey stripy building a few meters down from us.
‘A what?’ he questioned.
‘Where?’ the first man joined in, coming to fill the space at my other side.
‘The youth centre. It’s a place young people can go to hang out and take part in actives,’ I explained.
I looked at the first man then the second and decided that they were a little hard to tell apart. The first had longer hair, whilst the second was bald. Their suits were both light brown, caramel coloured and for a few moments they did give off the impression of being business men looking for a sale. However, they were religious men. The book of God give it away.
‘I see. Children’s centre,’ the first stated.
I glanced at the second man and saw him still looking confused.
‘We’ve been in UK only six months,’ the first stated.
‘Oh? And where you before that?’ I asked out of politeness.
He uttered a name. I had never heard the place nor could repeat it.
‘We on mission. Stay in UK two years. Before I come here, I spoke no English,’ he continued, happily.
He stepped away and held out his hand for the coming bus.
I peered around the bus shelter and saw it was the one I had been waiting for too. I got up and walked over as the bus came to a halt in front of us. He let me get on first and I flashed my ticket and looked for an empty seat. For half past eight on a Tuesday evening, the bus was busy. I sat down next to someone and watched the two men take the empty front seat which was only two seats in front and opposite me.
As I slightly hoped he didn’t turn to me and pick up the conversation again, he did so and speaking in a quieter voice asked, ‘have you lived here long?’
‘All my life,’ I replied.
‘You sound a little…American,’ he pointed out.
I laughed, so use to this, ‘no. I’ve never been to America. But I spent three years at uni with American exchange students. Then four months in New Zealand with some of them.’
‘Ah. Do you believe in God?’
The ultimate question.
‘Yes. I was brought up Church of England and I still believe.’
The small smile on his face grew huge as if I had made his day. I glanced down and finally made out the word Elder on his name badge. Mormons. Okay, now I knew what I was dealing with.
‘I’m happy as I am thanks,’ I also added, though I knew it was too late now.
‘We are all Brothers and Sisters,’ he declared as if he hadn’t heard me, ‘It’s our job to spread the Word about our Lord.’
‘Well, if that’s your calling. I bet it’s hard though…’ I said a loud instead of keeping it inside.
In the seconds it took for him to reply, I wondered what the other passengers were thinking about this. The person I was sat next to was fully engrossed in looking out of the window. The two people in front of me both were on their phones and the person opposite me had their face buried in a dirty copy of the Metro newspaper. The second man was staring silently ahead, almost as if he was ignoring the conversation like everyone else.
‘Yes. It is hard. But we must try. It’s what we are here for. We work in rain or sun, which ever. To spread the Word,’ Elder replied.
I nodded and felt a wave of sympathy for him. How many front doors had been slammed in his face today alone? How many people had shunned him for just trying to talk to them? I shook my head slightly. I couldn’t be Mormon, the lifestyle didn’t suit me. My new belief was that maybe God wasn’t that interested in what religion you were and what you believed in as long as you tried to be good. If you were kind, helpful and tried to do your best for yourself and those around you, God shouldn’t mind.
‘Do you live around here?’ Elder asked, being my attention back.
I glanced out the window and tried to see where we were, ‘No. I live just before Middleton town centre. A few more stops. Where do you live?’
‘Perhaps we can come to your house or another meeting place and talk some more?’
‘Ah. No. I’m good, thanks. I’m happy as I am.’
His huge smile dropped and he turned his head. I saw him glance at his friend then turn back to me.
‘It was nice talking to you,’ Elder said with a hint of sadness in his voice.
‘Same,’ I responded.
He held his hand and I shook it. His friend rang the bell and they both got up.
The bus stopped and watched them get off. It was only four bus stops away from mine. They must be house sharing or someone helped them to rent one, I thought. The bus pulled away and I finally settled back in my seat. The chance that I’d see them again popped into my mind and I was torn between things. I made my thoughts turned and wondered what the world would be like if people just took more time to listen to each other. I needed to give that a try. Perhaps it was a good thing my IPod hadn’t been charged.
(Inspired by a true event and the music of Disciple)