Public transportation has become my preferred way to move about my congested city and between cities. However, I am a solitary person so the crowded, loud and stuffy buses are a challenge for me. Often I am unable to muster up the spiritual energy to learn anything from a trip. I am definitely out of my comfort zone, but I bus it intentionally for the lessons I learn about being truly present to myself and others.
Recently I took two buses and a ferry to visit my friend on an island. In a cemetery along the route workers were erecting a canopy over an open grave. The scene drew me in, conjuring images of my siblings and I standing at the grave of our parents. I prayed for the loved ones of this spirit who would arrive in a few hours to say good-bye.
Soon, after one of the hundred stops the bus made, I felt a rich, reverberating and peaceful energy around me. Startled, I began to pay attention. Someone was singing. I turned on my hearing aids and was greeted with a faith-filled gospel song that seemed to emanate from a life deeply lived and a love freely given. I caught the singer’s eye and gave her a thumbs up. As the bus approached her stop she moved forward, still singing. The driver shouted, “Take it outside, will ‘ya?” I walked over, shook her hand and said, “Thank you.”
The challenge of the ride came when three “fare checkers” boarded the bus like Navy SEALs on a mission. They boomed out an introduction, asking us to have our transfers ready to prove that we had paid. Three men- one to check, two to provide muscle off the bus if necessary. I wondered what passengers without homes were experiencing during this check that felt like a raid.
On the last leg of the trip home I sat beside a sixteen year old who had traveled from a city forty-five miles south to meet another teen who said he’d buy a pair of shoes from him. The buyer was not answering his phone, so it appeared that the trip was useless. A really sweet kid who likely had no adult to navigate him through the ins and outs of business transactions. No car, but big on initiative. I tried to be present and offer him a bit of comfort and reassurance.
Taking public transportation is becoming a spiritual practice for me. Sometimes life outside my comfort zone is more real and spiritual than life ensconced safely in my contemplative anchorage.
Phonto Credit: Evening Standard