Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Woman on the Bus

Well, much as I would like to say I have another wonderful, peaceful story to share…that would not be the case with this tale—although it does start out that way. Monday afternoon I once again boarded a very full bus for my ride home. It started out delightfully as a man offered me his seat—an action almost never seen in my experience. I said, ‘thanks, I’m okay,’ but he insisted and told me that ‘chivalry was not dead.’ We laughed and conversed with a couple of other passengers until the next stop when he exited the bus. The exchange left me smiling and with a sense of hope.

The ride continued and I found myself between the window and a youngish man wearing large headphones, ensconced in his own world. As the bus came to a stop the woman in front of me needed to exit and her seat partner stood to let her out. The partner was facing me and just as I was about to nod and smile, her face darkened and she spit out, “Quit staring at me because I’m black!!” and then as she plopped into her seat she muttered rather loudly, “Bitch.”

I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Thoughts raced through my head. Is she talking to me? How could she think that? What did I do? She’s black? Her color had not even registered in my thoughts. I found myself wanting to apologize and say something to her, but realized that would be for my benefit not hers. I then started to wonder about the obvious anger and hurt inside of her. How had she become so guarded? Who had done this to her? Why must people be so unkind and cruel? It felt like she was spitting hatred onto me that had been heaped onto her throughout her twenty-something years of life.

And so, while very different experiences, this one has continued to stay with me as does "The Man on the Bus." These encounters have been added to the fabric of my life. It feels somehow trite to say, but I pray specifically for this man and woman and wonder where their lives will lead them. I have been changed by my experience of them while realizing my existence may not even register for them. We never know in life when or how we touch others.

"In surrendering to the miracle of the everyday, the Warrior of the Light notices he cannot always foresee the consequences of his actions. Sometimes he acts without even knowing that he is doing so, he saves someone without even knowing he is saving them, he suffers without even knowing why he is sad." --Paulo Coelho

May we all choose to surrender to the miracle of the everyday!

photo by bill hughlett

3 comments:

Antony said...

The bus as teacher of deep truth about the human condition. Who knew? Thanks for continuing to share these vignettes of both beauty and ugliness. They are who we are.

Tess said...

I like the Coelho quote. I've often had to deal with accusations of racism when mediating staff disputes. Sometimes it's been true, most times I genuinely believe not. But as with your woman, life for black people sometimes teaches terrible lessons.

redbarn said...

I have read several of your posts and I enjoy how you take everyday, ordinary, small yet not small, events and give them significant meaning and relate them to faith. And I love how you speak of your "alter ego!"
Eastertide blessings to you! Cathleen