It’s nearing 9 PM and I’m waiting for the bus. I’m tired. My back hurts. I want to be home. I do not want to be waiting for Philadelphia public transit. I see the bus coming.
Wait. The bus is pulling over, the driver is parking the bus, the driver is . . . walking across the street to McDonalds. I am irked, to say the least.
5 minutes pass. 10 minutes pass. I am mad. I try to talk myself down, “Surely, she is sick. Maybe she needs the bathroom. Compassion, Sarah. Be compassionate.” 15 minutes have passed. I should be halfway home.
Finally, I see the bus driver exit the McDonalds. HOMEGIRL WALKS BACK WITH A MCFLURRY. An inner dialogue ensues, “Oh, NO! No, you didn’t. That dairy is NOT helping the imaginary diarrhea I just gave you to increase my compassion, woman!”
I get on the bus. It’s just me and the driver. Homegirl decides I am her long lost best friend. She keeps trying to talk to me. I am not having it. The bus drives two blocks and stops at a red light. The driver opens the door. A frail man who can’t be less than 75 years old nears the bus and asks the driver a question, “How do you get to Philadelphia?”
“What?” she says. The old man repeats himself, “How do you get to Philadelphia?”
The driver tells him he is in Philadelphia. The man is clearly confused. The light is still red.
She asks him where he lives, where he needs to go. He gives a street name that no one has ever heard of. She asks if it is north. He says, “Um. Yeah. Maybe.” She tells him to take the next bus. He says okay and backs away from the bus slowly.
His eyes tell me this is anything but okay. The light turns green.
I can’t deal. I know he’ll never make it. “Stop!” I say to the driver. I get off the bus. I ask the man if I can help him. He tells me he is all turned around and mumbles, “I can’t . . . I don’t . . . remember. Nothing is familiar.” My mind is racing, “How did he get here? How can I help? Is he homeless? Does he have dementia? Where does he live? Should I call the police?”
I tell the man my name is Sarah and he tells me his name is Mr. Wells. I ask Mr. Wells if he knows his address. He rattles it off more confidently than I would have expected. I ask him if he is sure. He says he thinks so. I hope to God he’s right and that I’m not about to go on a wild goose chase. I hail a cab.
Miraculously, the cab driver knows the small street that Mr. Wells claims to live on. Mr. Wells tells me he cannot afford the cab, I tell him not to worry about it. I get in the cab with Mr. Wells.
When we reach the address I breathe a sigh of relief. The house is not some distant memory that only exists in the dusty mind of a weathered man. There are lights on. He tells me this is familiar. It seems Mr. Wells has remembered at least one thing correctly tonight. I walk him to the door. I pray for someone to be inside waiting, but no one comes. The door is unlocked. He wishes me goodnight. I wish I could do more. He goes inside.
I get in the cab. The driver begins the journey to my house and as he drives he asks a question. “Are you a Christian?” I am a little surprised but answer affirmatively. He says he knew it must be true because he has only experienced such kindness one other time, and that woman was also a Christian. He tells me how he came from a country in the Middle East. He shares the story of how this other Christian woman patiently and tirelessly taught him how to speak and read English when he arrived in the United States. He asks me additional questions about God and faith and purpose. We talk until we reach my house and I leave him with a blessing.
I walk up my front steps in awe of what has just happened. I reflect on Homegirl and her McFlurry. I was straight mad at the way her choices affected me for a short time. Meanwhile, God was looking out for someone who had no one. He was watering seeds of faith that had been planted by another. That 15 minute detour Homegirl took for ice cream was essential to His plan. I am glad I didn’t miss out on what was happening, but I feel incredibly challenged to check my attitude when things don’t go my way.
Who’s to say what someone else may need in moments of my first-world frustration? Who can know the mind of God and what he has in store?
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,” declares The Lord