Waiting For The Bus


I spill out of kaiser Permanente Medical Center with other members fortunate enough to afford insurance. My monthly premium covered all but $300 of my recent hip replacement. Waiting for the bus in the cold Pacific wind, I listen to the even more chilling chant of a man at his post in a parking lot driveway.”Sparechangepleasesparechangepleasesparechangeplease.” Inwardly I chant, “There is irritation here, but I am not irritated,” a chant which morphs into metta, “May you be safe from harm, happy and peaceful, strong and healthy. May you receive what you need.” I am grateful that my privileged life has given me the education and counseling I need to deal with stress. A round trip Lyft ride to the specialist would have cost $30 so I am stuck with the bus. This man likely has no doctor, much less an extra $300. He probably doesn’t even have bus fare, while I have the tech training and hardware to maintain a running online purse account with a senior discount. It’s all relative, isn’t it?

Choosing to take another three buses instead of enduring the frenzied but more direct E line, I wait three blocks from the famed Pike Street Market where fish-tossing is a sideshow. A woman wearing a harlequin-crafted face screams obscenities at the invisible person haranguing her about an auto accident. Her soliloquy is interrupted by another  agitated woman who threatens to hit her granddaughter with her shoe if she doesn’t behave. “I Don’t care what your mother does, when you’re with me, you won’t get away with…” being a toddler? The whole bus queue witnesses the declaration.

I want to run away. Judgment wells up from my collection of six psychology courses. Maybe if Grandma had those courses too she would have handled the situation differently. I manage to change judgment to compassion and send peace.

Three hours after beginning this journey I arrive home where a young woman meets me at the door and proclaims that I am Jesus and must give her a place to stay for the night. It was impossible on many levels. Next time I will make sure to have bus tickets and a list of shelters in my pocket when I venture out.

My ears and heart ring with traffic noise and life noise as I lie down to rest. I am tempted to wallow in the news that after this long trip to Kaiser Permanente there still is no help for the chronic illness that makes its home in me. My lament is caught up short when I remember the chant,”sparechangepleasesparechangepleasesparechangeplease.” Lesson learned. Until the next trip. There’s room on this bus for you too. Hop on.







My Front Yard




Yesterday I watched a man make his home at the bench along the Interurban trailhead across from my apartment. First he emptied his black plastic bag onto the grass and draped his clothes over the railing to release three days of rain. Then he sat on the bench and basked in the welcome sun. Thirty minutes later he moved on to another home.

Last week I watched a man pace furiously up and down the same trail while shouting and articulating to an unseen listener….Unseen to me.

I live in a large, thriving suburb north of Seattle Washington. News coverage of our area focuses on the boom in technology and the influx of workers it brings, along with the construction needed to house them. Come to Seattle, the heart of  Amazon, where few people can afford the rent much less a mortgage. Come to Seattle where downtown has become a parade of Effie Trinket puppets, strings pulled by capitalism run amuck.

So what do I do about the daily drama unfolding in my front yard? Eyes wide open. Don’t t turn away. Be compassionate. Be an advocate. Above all, live simply so that these “others” can not simply live, but thrive. That’s what it means to tend to the common good.

Calvary Is Right Here

homeless person


“Palm Sunday”
Joyce Rupp


Three men
proclaiming the memory
of your path to Calvary.
Three men
with somber voices
making all the appropriate
pauses and inflections.

But what I remember
is the Calvary
beside me,
the man
whose body odor
invaded my space,
the man
seemingly homeless,
surely mentally

The three men
went on and on and on
with their words
telling the history
of your suffering.

I found you
not in their stiff words
but next to me,
a man still bearing
the heavy cross
of loneliness and rejection.

“Palm Sunday” collected in My Soul Feels Lean:  Poems of Loss and Restoration Sorinbooks, 2013



Photo Credit:  Edited from The Homeless Epidemic at http://eng105project3.blogspot.com/?m=1