I am still thinking about what happened last evening, right around twilight …
I arrive at the transit mall just minutes before my 8:45 is scheduled to leave. It’s a warm evening, so I take a seat.
I nod “Good evening” to the woman sitting next to me. She looks worn out from the heat. We all do.
“Good evening,” she says in return.
The bus pulls up. I let my friend board first. I follow behind.
But there seems to be a problem. Quickly I get the drift. My friend is barefoot.
“Sorry,” the driver says, like the sound of an iron gate closing. “Passengers have to wear shoes.”
The nearest shoe store I can think of is a good mile away. And it’s probably closed.
“But can you please make an exception?” my friend pleads. “This is an emergency. I locked myself out of my house.”
“Sorry. I can’t just start making exceptions.”
The conversation is going nowhere. Barefoot Sister deboards. I show my pass.
I can’t give her my boots, I think. But wait, I could give her my socks!
I spin around. “Would socks count?” I ask the driver.
For the briefest second she looks thunderstruck. “We could make that exception,” she says in a cautious tone.
I head back off the bus and break the news to Sister Barefoot, “Socks count! Would you like my socks?”
She, too, looks thunderstruck.
“Are you sure?” she asks.
I quickly take a seat. Left foot up, left boot off, left sock off, boot back on. Right foot up, right boot off, right sock off, boot back on. I shake out the foot-warmth as best I can.
Sister Barefoot quickly pulls the socks on her feet.
We reboard. I take a seat across the aisle and back a row from her.
I think about the logic of her story. Her house key is probably in her pocket. She’s just barefoot. Somehow this encounter needed to happen.
I wiggle my bare toes inside my boots.
And I think back to a bitter cold winter night, now forty-some years ago, in Copenhagen. I’m on the last bus of the night.
At one stop an old man waits to board, with a container of heating oil pressed against his chest. He has no gloves. He wants to get home. And the bus driver cannot let him board.
I get what that’s about. You cannot ride public transit with a container of flammable heating oil.
The pathos on the old man’s face, the pleading in his voice on this bitter cold night, chokes me up. It breaks my heart. It angers me. I am safe and warm, and he is not.
I do not speak enough Danish to plead on his behalf. And what would I say? I feel only helpless anguish in the presence of his misery.
The door closes. The old man stands in the dark as the bus pulls away.
But last night comes as a grace. Not because I am a hero. The grace is that I showed up. I paid attention. And I did the next obvious thing. And someone was blest.
By and large, that’s all that is ever asked of us: Show up, pay attention, do the next obvious thing.
I cannot rehearse the graced moment. I can only make myself available to the good I cannot see.
And today I’m filled with joy. I was used of the Holy Spirit in a way that blessed another.
“Good night,” I say, tapping Sock Sister’s shoulder as I rise to deboard.
“Good night,” she says. As I head toward the rear door she calls out, “God bless you!”
“God bless you, too!” I say.
Sister Bus Driver catches our exchange in her mirror. She catches my eye.
“Thank you!” she waves.
All the way home I notice that walking barefoot in my boots isn’t bad.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on
the nature of God’s calling in our times.