Over the last few weeks I’ve had to opportunity to experience something thats been quite humbling… To save money, I decided I’d take the bus all the way from Knoxville to Ottawa, Ontario to visit my daughter & grand-daughter (and of course Jeff, my daughter’s wonderful husband!).
I think what hit me in the face were my traveling companions. I don’t want to sound pretentious or snobby but the people that travel via Greyhound are not usually the people you’ll see in airports.
Of course, young people of all walks of life travel very casually these days. Young women traveling in pajama bottoms can be seen both at the plane terminal as well as the bus depot. What you don’t see at the gates at the airport are folks that look like they’re on their last dime.
I can’t generalize… many travelers look just like me – weary & anxious to be done with it. However, most look like they’ve either been through hell or are on their way there. I’ve seen faces overcome with sadness, dejection, loss, despair even some women actually looked frightened! I’ll admit that most depots weren’t the sort of place I’d hang out at but I can say that I felt safe in all of them. So why would some women looked scared?
I can guess just by looking at these tired faces that very few of these people have waiting at their destination what I have waiting for me. A wonderful home, a loving husband, a church, friends, a job, all the latest geeky gadgets and a fridge full of good food! Not to forget some chubby dogs & a fat cat!
Tattered clothes, unkempt hair, old baggage falling apart… I saw a couple of ladies with several children & although they had a few pieces of worn luggage, they probably had 10 or 12 bulging Walmart bags with their belongings.
I’ve seen so many faces of folks walking around looking totally lost & somehow I knew in my heart that many of these “lost” people were not only physically & mentally out of sorts but spiritually lost. Like they had no hope. No hope in life. This makes me feel so sad. I know Jesus is calling out to these people – some may be listening but I suspect most are too preoccupied with their situation to turn to our Savior – don’t they understand? He’s not your LAST resort! He should be your first! If Jesus was around today, He’d either be riding the bus or hanging out at bus depots.
Today, at the Cincinnati terminal (my last one before Knoxville), as I was having a sandwich, a very distraught lady came up to me & asked if I had some change so she could buy her daughter (about 5 years old), something to eat. She said her little girl was hungry & they had 12 hours to wait for their bus to Oklahoma City.
I had very little money (I very seldom carry cash), but I offered to buy the child food using my credit card. The woman was very happy & very thankful & kept saying, “Bless your heart, bless your heart”! I told the little girl to pick what she wanted & she opted for the hot-dog special that included a drink & a chip. I asked mom if she was hungry & she said she too was starving but it was more important to feed her daughter. I insisted she pick out a lunch for her also. At the register I told the little girl to pick some candy for later on and she asked, “Can I still keep the hot-dog?”… Broke my heart. Then she signaled her mom to bend over for a “secret” and then the mom looked at me, smiled & said, “My daughter says you remind her of her Nana who’s in heaven.” Made my day…
The lady later told me that she had left Oklahoma City 2 months ago & came to Cincinnati in hopes of finding a job. Nothing turned up so she was heading back home when her brakes failed & she totaled her car. She pointed to all her belongings on a cart. All of her cash was spent on tickets for her & her daughter to get back home but the next bus was 12 hours later. She didn’t know what she was going to do for the next 12 hour in a bus depot with a 5 year old! It’s not like you can go walk in the park while you’re waiting… she had to keep an eye on her possessions.
As I sat waiting, the fellow next to me started telling me how he was heading to Dayton to see his grown kids that he hadn’t seen in a long time. He thanked me for feeding the mom & daughter because they had first asked him & he had only about $2 on him & as much as he hated seeing the little child hungry, he just couldn’t spare his last dollars.
I met a young man who quickly told me that he had been divorced for over 6 years but still loved his wife & couldn’t get over her. They had kids with shared custody but he couldn’t afford much with them… Out of the blue, this man just spilled his guts out… Such sadness…
These are only a few stories that I’m sharing with you… I think I spoke to at least one person at every depot and each one had a heart wrenching tale. Besides the young mother, no one asked me for anything except to just listen… Know that I didn’t start any of the conversations – I guess I have that kind of face. I try to smile all the time & not to turn my face away from anyone that looks at me. I still can’t figure if these I was put in the paths of these people for their benefit or more than likely, mine…
Surprisingly, this is extremely difficult for me. Part of me is saying, “Don’t look around, keep your eyes on your book & you won’t see anyone”. Why don’t I want to see anyone? Because of my biggest & worse human flaw. I have a very judgmental nature & I’m constantly working on not being that way. I always have to remind myself that no matter what that person looks like or what kind of look that person has toward me, they are children of God & they are loved as much if not more by Him than I am.
It’s so easy to judge and think of yourself better than the tough looking gal with the tattered clothes & the ring in her eyebrow…or the unshaven man with a cigarette tucked behind his ear wearing mismatched sneakers & no socks. But I’m not better & I have to constantly remind myself of that. Of course I take this to confession but it’s hard to do that because I know it’s a sin that I’ll most likely do again.. and again. I’m not as bad as I was but I’m still struggling with that…
My hope is that when people look at me, they can see Christ’s light and the love He has for them and I think to a certain degree people do see that – but on the other hand, its so very difficult for me to look at others and see Christ. My daily prayer before bed is always, “Lord, allow others to see You in me & help me to see You in others”.. I think I need to pray much harder for the latter.
People traveling by bus are probably not blessed with the opportunities & lifestyles that you and I have… Want to live a very humbling experience? Take a cross country week-end trip via Greyhound – it’s cheap enough & you’ll return home with a new appreciation for your blessings & maybe, just maybe, a humbler heart & hopefully a feeling of equality, not superiority.