July 4, 2015
Often I come to this site with nothing in my mind about what I want to talk about and just hoping my muse shows up, coffee in hand, in time to help me put words on this blank page. Today isn’t one of them.
If you are new to this site, let me preface this blog by telling you that I am a transit bus driver by profession, a writer and rescuer of people and creatures by nature, and a parent to a lot of kids by choice. My world gets messy and complicated and it’s what brings me back here time after time to share the things that happen in this crazy adventure I call my life.
This month marks 18 years that I have been driving transit bus. I spent my first year behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle driving a school bus. I really enjoyed it but when the summer rolled around I needed something to do and I saw an ad in the paper for city bus drivers. I figured it would be a great summer job, applied, got hired, and ended up staying. Longest summer job I have ever had, by the way…
Driving around the city in which I live, I see a lot of things most people who reside here never see. The buses service both rich and poor neighborhoods, since we don’t’ show partiality to anyone, but its the poor areas of town that really need us. Those that live in the more affluent neighborhoods usually have a couple of cars parked in the garage and the only one who needs a bus are the kids to go to and from school or the mall. The ones who use our services the most are usually the poorest and least advantaged citizens, the physically and developmentally challenged, the mentally ill, the homeless, the under employed, or students from the local junior college and various junior high and high schools in the area.
Earlier this week I was getting ready to leave the transit center to start my route to the West side of town when an older Hispanic woman showed up at my bus door. she had her daughter with her, who was confined to a wheelchair. she was severely disabled physically–her hands were curled up into them selves and I didn’t notice her moving much on her own as her mom wheeled her into the bus and stepped back so I could tie the chair down and secure it in the bus. I did notice that her hair was brushed and braided in a thick braid and she was dressed in cute, fashionable clothes that any 16-year-old girl would like to wear, right down to her snap back hat. Obviously this young lady was very loved and I began to think a little bit on that as I got back in my seat. We proceeded t on route and her mom rang for their stop near the government housing tract. I quickly released the young lady’s chair and sat back in my seat to lower the ramp so they could exit. Her mom had a bit of trouble maneuvering the chair and as I turned to offer her some assistance I looked into the daughter’s eyes and was gob smacked. The intelligence and awareness I saw there gave me pause, and then they were out the door and gone.
Why did this affect me so strongly? Maybe because when I first saw them I assumed the young lady was in a vegetative state. Maybe because I carry hundreds of wheel-chair bound passengers a year and I have grown somewhat callused towards them and others with disabilities who ride with me every day. Maybe because I saw a beautiful human being who was trapped in a body that would never be able to respond in a way that would enable her to communicate to the outside world who she is and what her dreams are…
I thought about her for the rest of the day. But for the Grace of God there go I or one of my loved ones. I sent up a little prayer of thanks for my children and grand children’s good health. How easily that could have been me or one of mine. And for her mother I also sent up a prayer. It takes a special person to be able to nurse a child when they are well past the age where they should be on their own and when I saw the tender way her mom adjusted her cap and brushed her face with her fingers, my heart broke just a little bit. She didn’t see her daughter as a burden, she only saw her baby girl who she adored and loved as deeply as any mother loves her child. The fact that she would care for her like a baby for the rest of her life didn’t seem to matter. And I was humbled by that love.
I would like nothing better than for my grown children to find their way out into the world and leave the safety of the nest here at home. I crave the peace and serenity of a home that is the same when I come home as when i left it that morning. Yet I also know that I love my children and will miss them terribly if and when that day finally gets here.
I see people every day who are living a tragic life. Their stories are cruel and harsh and I don’t want to hear them, but I do. I have hardened my heart to them because if I don’t I wouldn’t survive this job. So often I have asked casually “So how are you doing today?” as a passenger boards my bus, then proceeded to regret asking because they sat down and told me… And my heart breaks a little more with every sad story, every abused woman and child, every broken man who can’t find a job to support his family, every one who tells me they just found out they have cancer or some other life-threatening illness. The stories roll over me and through me like a wave and I feel sometimes that I will drown in it if I have to hear one more tragedy or see one more person struggling to pick up the broken shards of their life with no one to help them piece it back together.
And then I remember that mother, and those like her, who don’t see that their life is anything other than what it is–a gift of life and love to be given to those around them in unmeasured amounts, not seeking rewards for it but just being grateful to have them in their life one more day.
So today as we celebrate our freedoms in this amazing country we call home, let’s remember to be grateful for the things we take for granted . Not only our freedom to love anyone we choose, but our homes, our families, our health, our happiness. Take joy in the little things. Take a walk. Talk to your neighbor. Enjoy the freedom of a healthy body and remember that not all have that freedom. Love a little more. Appreciate the things you have been given and be content.
I get to spend the holiday with my family and all five of my grandchildren. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that–five grand kids 5 years old and under are a LOT of busy-ness!! But after looking into that young girls’ eyes and seeing a beautiful soul trapped in a dysfunctional body, a soul that only death of the mortal will free to the immortal, I am grateful to have this time with them and will enjoy every wiggle, every giggle, every splash , every hug. I keep thinking of the lyrics to a Keith Urban song, “But For The Grace Of God” :
“But for the grace of God go I–
I must’ve been born a lucky guy.
Heaven only knows how I’ve been blessed with the gift of your love.
And I look around and all I see
Is your happiness embracing me
Oh Lord I’d be lost… But for the grace of God.”