the view from the bus

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The godly care about the rights of the poor;
    the wicked don’t care at all. – Proverbs 29:7

IMG_2367My quick excursion into Florida is complete, so now it’s time to catch up on some work. My plan was to deliver our old SUV to Rebekah’s brother in Jacksonville (“seeing with new eyes, and missing much less“), then jump on a bus heading north. Today’s post tries to tell that story.

BIGOT: First, I can’t write about this the way I thought I would, going in. It turns out I came to the Greyhound station pre-loaded with assumptions, generalizations, judgements, and bigoted, prejudicial points of view regarding my fellow-travelers.

Instead, my bus – as well as the four depots I spent some time at – was loaded with the most colorful assortment of real people; people with stories; people with hopes, dreams, struggles, and disappointments; people just like me.

I listened to some of their stories, and they touched me deeply. But this wasn’t simply a few people on a bus, it was a window into an entire strata of life here in the United States of America, comprised of so many people who keep this country running, who work in jobs we pay little attention to, who struggle to make ends meet, to raise their children, and to even put food on the table, and who are largely invisible to people like me.

IMG_2381EARLY START: I got up at 5:30, so my brother-in-law could drive me to a friend’s house who commutes into downtown Jacksonville. I was dropped off in front of the Greyhound Station around 7:00, long before my scheduled 9:30 departure.

Over the next two-and-a-half hours I drank coffee, chatted with several people, and watched the depot fill up.

The bus itself was fairly worn, not exactly clean, mildly uncomfortable, roomier than “coach” on most airlines, bumpy on the highway, and slightly malodorous in a way that evoked – in equal parts – locker-rooms, bathrooms, and vending machines.

IMG_2383STORY: I sat next to “Dawn,” who was on her way to Arkansas (she’ll be on the road another 24 hours after I arrive home) to try to get her nine-month old daughter released from the custody of child services.

Hers is a long story; it involves another daughter who is being raised by her great-grandmother (the grandmother who raised Dawn), escaping the state from a dangerous ex-husband, trying to start a new life, struggling to make rent, working “off-books” as a house-cleaner for unscrupulous property developers, attending night-school when possible, and – the clincher, the event that had her on a bus heading back to Arkansas – her own father being arrested for Methamphetamine abuse, child endangerment, and more.

Dawn changed buses in Savannah. I pray that the judge she goes before early Friday morning has spent at least a few hours on a Greyhound bus, with his gavel out of sight and his listening ears on.

IMG_2362BOB: Bob’s struggle goes back many years. He’s still on the bus, and he’s not getting off till New Hampshire. He said, “I’m going to try to see my brother;” but I’m not sure it’s going to happen.

Whatever plays out in New England, Bob is determined to find a way back to Florida before the first freeze. He doesn’t actually have a home, and I don’t believe he wants one right now. He’s much younger than me, but the past couple of decades have left him looking closer to 70.

HEART-BREAKER: The real heart-breaker came near some vending machines in Georgia. The little boy was likely around eight years old – light sandy hair, blue eyes, freckles, thick corrective lenses; he stood out in his solidly African-American family. The foster mother (and it was evident from the interaction that they’d only been together a few days) was trying to explain why she didn’t have a dollar for him, and why he needed to get the idea of treats out of his head, once and for all (I wrote the interaction down, so I wouldn’t forget).

IMG_2359-001“Look,” she said, ” insistently but not unkindly; “There’s no time for no concern or worry about money; there never will be…”

The child started to protest, and the woman got down on his level, put her hands on his shoulders, and looked him right in the eye. “We black now!” she said. “There is no money. This is what black is.”

And I wondered about the child’s history. Had he just lost his parents? Had he been in the system all his life? How significantly was his world being re-written, right in front of my eyes?

TEARS: This one made me cry, when I shared the story with Rebekah on our way to dinner, after she picked me up at the Raleigh depot around 8:00.

back to my
back to my easy(ish) life…

But was I crying for this child…? Or for Dawn and her baby and the lostness of her methamphetamine consumed father…? Or was I crying because I walked so easily out of that story and into a nice air-conditioned car, and on to Milton’s restaurant for a de-brief and back to my life?

I have so much to learn. I believe we all do.


Gallery shows the day, in sequence:


  1. Reblogged this on How do I live thee? and commented:
    Derek’s story reminds me of how easily I judge and categorize the people who come into the store where I work. After a customer leaves, I might make a “crazy” gesture to a co-worker, or comment that the person has “issues.” When push comes to shove, I have issues, too. Why can’t I just let people “be”?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brandon Heath has a great song like this. It’s based on airline flight, but much the same reflection: What would it be like to see the world through God’s eyes? Maybe Jesus would also “when you see the least of these …” you have seen me.

    “Give Me Your Eyes”

    Looked down from a broken sky
    Traced out by the city lights
    My world from a mile high
    Best seat in the house tonight
    Touched down on the cold black top
    Hold on for the sudden stop
    Breathe in the familiar shock
    Of confusion
    And chaos

    All those people goin’ somewhere
    Why have I never cared?

    Give me Your eyes for just one second
    Give me Your eyes so I can see
    Everything that I keep missing
    Give me Your love for humanity
    Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
    The ones that are far beyond my reach
    Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
    Give me Your eyes so I can see

    Step out on a busy street
    See a girl and our eyes meet
    Does her best to smile at me
    To hide what’s underneath
    There’s a man just to her right
    Black suit and a bright red tie
    Too ashamed to tell his wife
    He’s out of work, he’s buyin’ time

    All those people goin’ somewhere
    Why have I never cared?

    Give me Your eyes for just one second …

    I’ve been there a million times
    A couple of million eyes
    Just move and pass me by
    I swear I never thought that I was wrong
    Well I want a second glance
    So give me a second chance
    To see the way You’ve seen the people all along

    Give me Your eyes for just one second
    Give me Your eyes so I can see
    Everything that I keep missing
    Give me Your love for humanity
    Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
    The ones that are far beyond my reach
    Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
    Give me Your eyes so I can see

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For a season I also commuted by bus from Toronto to London, ON (about 2 hours each way). I did that run weekly for about 2 years and met many of the same people you talk about here. It’s funny how, at the end of the day, humanity is the same the world over.


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