I ride the bus into downtown for work every morning, and dutifully board the bus home at the end of the day…. The bus is a colorful selection of humanity, small and large, loud and quiet, of the strata of varying economic condition, and wide range of cultural diversity.
There are times when i look forward to chatting with the person who sits down next to me, and there are other times when i want to just be quiet, and to myself. Last night was one such a night filled with the hope of quiet. I had chosen a seat near the front because the bus was packed, and i did not want to stand all the way home. At the very next stop some woman came to all of our attention because she began with scolding the bus driver, yelling about how the drivers are not respectful of people with disabilities. (The driver of the evening bus is a very compassionate man… have seen him go out of his way to help a wheelchair bound passenger on and off, securing the wheelchair on the bus, etc. ) The woman then proceeded to hop on the bus with the biggest walker i ever saw in my life. She was not traveling light… bags in tow she grunted on the bus, and zero-d in for that seat next to me. When she sat down she squeezed me to a side and took up almost 2 seats, banging her walker hard into my knees. Then it happened.. the wind was just right and i realized this woman smelled like chicken fingers and pine sol and some almost unidentifiable body odor or fragrance.
I was hoping for the quiet ride to my stop o n the bus …. however the lady began asking me questions about the blog i was reading on my cell phone. She could see my little screen and was interested. They were pictures of a church that was being torn down… on Clifton and W117. Then came the grand reveal: “I know that area well, i used to be a taxi cab driver for 50 years until i got shot in the back” she said.
What? Did i hear her right? Did she just say she was a taxi driver for 50 years until she was shot in the back? Why yes, she did say that.
In my selfish little world of “I want a quiet uneventful bus trip” the silence was broken with the heartbreaking truth that this woman is a shadow of what she was because of a random act of violence. I had it all wrong, again. Ms Chicken Finger Pinesol Woman with body odor was really a broken and wounded person who was rallying everything she had to recover from destruction. Her world of order, ability to drive anywhere, and fearlessness to take anyone in her cab crashed down to ashes… and she was trying to climb out of the rubble to find a new order, a new life filled with rehab, mobility issues, and unemployment. I found myself wondering how i would have adapted to such a physical and emotional life changer like a gun shot wound. Here is a woman who was used to driving everyone anywhere but now resorting to a walker, and bus for transportation. It seemed tragic.
And it hit me. Each of us have stories… from the smelly messy woman to the guy in that fancy business suit with everything in its place, we all have a story to tell. And these stories can impact others, or not. I would have never guessed that woman for a cab driver, nor would i have imagined the courage she must have possessed to pick up random strangers and drive them where they need to go. That goes beyond my comfort level. I have always been adverse to putting myself in high risk situations.
But it also hit me that no matter what we look like or how proper or not so much proper we can rest in one sure fact. We are known by God, and loved by him. Every inch of our lives are known, and God is there to see us through. And we are made in the image of God, made to care for each other.
So here i sat, on a crowded bus with the smell of chicken fingers and pine sol, and a woman who is a fighter, not willing to let the big punches in life slow her down. She needs what every one of us need – respect, a listening ear, and to know she has a place in this world. So Go Ms Chicken Finger Pine sol woman – keep coming back from that devastating life changing injury, and God forgive me for just thinking of myself on that bus… and forgive me for overlooking her and judging her for how she appeared.
Another lesson learned, another opportunity to put faith into practice, and to give way to the old ways, and look at this world through the eyes of faith. I am so thankful for conviction.