I board the No. 24 Donald on this quiet Sunday morning. Two people sit in the back. I take my seat, midway, across from the exit door.
The morning is fresh, I notice, as I gaze out the window. I feel happy, at peace. In an hour I’ll be with my worshiping community. I am quietly contemplating Jesus in my heart.
We stop every couple of blocks as we make our way along Willamette Street. The bus begins to fill.
We stop at Willamette and 25th. I see a man, waiting to board, in a motorized wheelchair. This one will take a little longer.
The driver extends the ramp, and the man carefully proceeds. His assistant follows close behind.
And time stops.
And I am stunned. Does anyone else on this bus notice what is happening?
Facing us, the man in the wheelchair pauses. His face radiates a quiet warmth. Beneath the brim of his tweed cap he fixes his eyes, with love, on each person on the bus.
I mean fixes, with intentional blessing and love, on each person. All the way to the back of the bus.
He fixes his eyes on me. I feel “looked into,” with intentional blessing and love, straight through to my heart, to the depths of my soul.
Jesus has just boarded the bus, I think in astonishment. I feel startled, unprepared.
And time picks up again. The man in the motorized wheelchair maneuvers quickly into place. His attendant secures the chair with two straps. Click, click.
The ramp comes up and we’re on our way.
Who is this man, I wonder. But I lack the nerve to walk to the front of the bus and say good morning to him.
All week long I walk around with some divine kiss-print on my soul. Will he be on the bus next Sunday, I wonder?
He is. From the window I see his fresh-scrubbed rosy-cheeked face, the same patient, gentle smile.
He boards. Time stops. And for one brief eternal moment Love again unfurls its sovereign presence.
What is the worst that could happen if I just gently approached him in the block before my stop?
I have two blocks to think about this.
At the red light before my stop I gather my forces, rise from my seat, and move my feet in the direction of my friend.
“Good morning,” I say, clear-voiced and hopeful.
“Goot morning,” he says thickly, nodding and beaming.
I notice his hands, gnarled, probably with arthritis. His attendant, sitting in the row behind, says, “He doesn’t speak English very well. He’s from Argentina.”
Ah, I think to myself. But he does speak the language of Love.
“My name is Maria,” I say, touching my friend’s hand. He looks intently into my eyes.
“My name is Jorge,” he beams through his Argentinian accent.
“Have a blessed day,” I say.
He beams. I sense that he understands.
I pat his hand again.
Jorge and his attendant Brian ride the bus now most Sunday mornings. Not all. And sometimes I am out of town.
“Jorge looks forward to Sunday mornings,” Brian tells me, “because his friend Maria will be on the bus.”
I imagine Jorge goes downtown to church. So I ask Brian if they go downtown for coffee, or maybe a late breakfast.
“We go to St. Mary’s.”
“Oh!” I say. “St. Mary’s Episcopal? Or St. Mary’s Catholic?”
“St. Mary’s Catholic,” Brian says. “We go to the one o’clock Spanish service.”
“Oh!” I say.
Well, this explains everything.
But today my heart is heavy. Soon I will move, and no longer ride the No. 24 on Sunday mornings. I don’t know how to explain this to Jorge. I will explain it to Brian. But Brian doesn’t speak Spanish, either.
I’ve been apprenticed, I discover, in the school of real presence. Jorge shows me how it’s done.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on
the nature of God’s calling in our times.