Some of you know I traveled by a Greyhound bus a few days ago. The plan was for me to ride to Birmingham from Nashville. I ended up being met at the halfway mark by a friend, which was a good thing considering the tornado touch downs in the area.
When I booked the ticket a month ago it seemed like a good option for saving money, not having to drive in unfamiliar territory and using the commute to read and write. Plus, I didn’t need a car once I got to Birmingham. Had I seen a Greyhound station before I probably would’ve been convinced extra money spent on a car worth it. And besides, I learned to drive on the freeways of Houston!
But God wanted me at the station, as uncomforable as it was.
The first thing I saw when my friend and I pulled up in her white suburban were homeless people congregated outside the building and the police at the corner talking to someone.
For the first time, I started to get nervous.
We decided my friend would wait in the car with my luggage while I went inside to check-in… or check-it out rather. I walked in and immediately felt all eyes on me. Yes, my skin color was different than most, but what really separated me were my clothes. Clearly, I was not the typical bus rider.
But I got in line next to a lady with missing teeth. It was her first time too and neither of knew the procedure. When it was my turn at the counter I learned it would not be at all like what I’m accustomed to at the airport. Having arrived unnecessarily an hour early, I went back out to my friend and we decided to go use the restroom and get coffee at the Omni – only 1 mile from the station but worlds apart.
When we pulled into the hotel valet area we actually asked about the cost of an Uber to Birmingham. Just to see. Another option we considered was driving over to the airpot so I could rent a car, which would get me to Birmingham even an hour sooner without the stops the bus was going to make. But despite my apprehension I wasn’t convinced I shouldn’t just stick to my plan.
When we returned to the station the two of us walked in together this time. Again, I felt keenly aware of our differences. Every seat in the waiting area was taken and I didn’t know where to even stand. Thankfully there is power in numbers so with my friend’s lead we made our way past staring eyes to the far side of the room where we found a mother-daughter duo (who looked most closely like me). They were enroute from Michigan to Florida and had already been at it for 24 hours! So eye-opening – strange – to me. But, chatting with them calmed my spirit, and gave me people to sit by on the bus.
That is when my friend knew she could safely leave me. But soon after she left it was announced the bus was indefinitely delayed. Of course, that sent me into a new round of questioning whether this bus-thing was the right thing to do. Something interesting happened though; people all around me started chatting with one another– bonding over the bus being behind. I had been struck by the fact that unlike me, taking the bus was truly their only transportation option, but now just like me they too were antsy to get to their destination. We could identify. Only most of them had way further to go.
When the older-looking lady with lots of piercings (her circumstances likely the culprit of aging beyond her years) saw me looking for an outlet for my phone charger she scooted her luggage over and let me take seat. As we started talking she shared her concern for a family member who needed knee surgery. Well, I have that exact concern thanks to a rider on my husband’s knee. She and I, we could identify. Only I’m not fearful of a possible leg amputation as she is because of several family members’ experiences due to infection and the lack of proper medical attention.
As different as I looked from everyone seated around me, I couldn’t help thinking they too are wonderfully, beautifully created in the same likeness of God as me. Imago Dei. Made in his image.
We miss this though. Or, I do. In so many ways I live worlds apart from the woman I was sitting next to, but stripped of our external clothes and conditions, our hearts are the same.
We all fear, worry, lose our patience, grow tired, get hungry. We sin. We judge. We dismiss others with distain. We fill with pride, and shrink back in insecurity. We all want to be loved and affirmed; accepted. We look for those things in false places. And we all need the redeeming blood of a Savior.
Waiting in the station and riding the bus was good for me. It opened my eyes, made me uncomfortable and filled me with compassion all at the same time. When I began to look beyond the outer shell of others, I didn’t feel so afraid anymore. I got off the bus a little later thankful God doesn’t look at me the way I so often look at others. Imago Dei. Made in his image.
What if we looked at others as image bearers? Can we see it’s true? Only by his grace, but let’s pray he would help us see – really see – all people, especially those who look nothing like us.