The bus driver appeared to be in his late twenties or early 30’s. He seemed nervous, most likely because he was running late—about an hour. Yet he seemed friendly and warm at the same time. He looked at our tickets and put our luggage on board. We had three pieces of luggage because I had paid a mere $15 extra to pay for an additional suitcase. I was a little nervous because I had 4 pieces of carry on stuff—a cooler, a large day pack, a small guitar and a pillow. We were supposed to just bring on two pieces. But as in every trip I had taken before—the drivers never said a thing about the abundance of stuff I brought on the bus.
Thus begins our official Greyhound bus journey. We waved goodbye to Cliff, Chris, and Robert, our fellow Wellspring Community members (my two former husbands and my son). This was a historical event, because Mahriyanna, my eighteen year old daughter, was with me. Every other time I had been on trips where I traveled Greyhound, about seven times, I was by myself. Oh, Cliff tells me we rode the bus together when I was in my twenties—but I have no memory of that trip.
What was most special was that all these experiences were shared with my daughter, and in many cases, she helped initiate the rich web of connections we made. I feel so grateful that she was happy with the experience as well.
I intend to write many blog posts about this trip. But whether I do it or not is another story. My problem is that every day is so full of rich experiences that if I took the time to write them down there would be less rich experiences. But I am wondering if part of the beauty is to write them down and share with people who meaningful and deep and joyful life can be when we simply are in the present paying loving attention to people. As Jesus would say, “loving my neighbor as myself.”
As I thought about how I would write the story of 46 hours on the Greyhound, I realized that I felt most joyful and energized when I thought about the people we met. Yes, the scenery at times was impressive. Each bus station had a certain personality, as did the city that we stopped in. The bus drivers were each unique, but it is hard to make a deep connection with them—although I will be speaking about bus drivers I am sure. I could talk about how hard it was to get enough sleep at first but as we relaxed into the rythym of stopping ever two hours, and sometimes needing to change busses, for me, sleep was not a problem. I read a whole book about Nonviolent Communication as it relates to following Jesus—and I felt very nurtured and satisfied to read a short chapter which often made me sleepy, and then rest a while.
Yes, the people were what made the trip very satisfying. I am going to use made up names to protect their privacy. First there was Don, who confided that he was visiting his very sick mother and had no food or money. Maybe he was lying—one never knows—but he seemed to be very vulnerable and emotional as we prayed for him and his mother. We gave him a small amount of food, money and water, hoping that we had made a difference.
Ellen, a large black lady who sat next to Mahriyanna when we got on the bus to Phoenix, was amazing. She cheered the student bus driver on as the teaching bus driver harshly criticized her driving—so much so that I wondered if we were going to make it to our destination safely. She also made it possible for M and I to sit together.
John and Mary, a couple in their late twenties, two followers of Jesus who soon joined us after Joplin, became our main companions since their seats were next to ours, and John was very gregarious. We got off on what might seem like the wrong food when he wrinkled his nose and, speaking about my green smoothie, said, “Oooh—what’s that?” in a rather disgusted tone. “Don’t curse my food,” was my answer. And we proceeded to have a remarkable connection that included me inspiring him to try green smoothies. His wife really wanted him to eat healthier. We also shared our experiences of how we came to follow Jesus, and prayed with each other at the end of our journey.
Maria, Veronica, and Donna were a Hispanic family traveling to visit relatives in Fresno. Veronica, a third grader, was bright and articulate, often addressing Mahriyanna with some insightful comment throughout the journey. They also were across from us. I hope we inspired the mom to home school because Veronica did not like school, and we shared some of our stories of homeschooling.
Ariel was a 26 year old Hawaain girl who I noticed because she seemed to have an air of peace and gentleness. We did not talk at length until we spent an extra four hours in Los Angeles where we had missed our connection. Another follower of Jesus with a sweet testimony and a beautiful commitment to her family and seven month-old child—she shared very intimate details of her life and I did the same with her. We hugged before we left each other in Oceanside bus terminal.
Larry, a tall, clean cut, slender, white, 27 year old man, had an air about him that inspired me to keep my distance. But when he asked us if we were going to San Diego after we had been on the bus together for a day and a half, I felt compelled to ask him about his life. He confided that he was going to San Diego with $100 in his pocket and hoped to very quickly get work. He left the mid-west yearning for a change. He was willing to let me give him all kinds of networking advice, and let me pray for him as well. I hope we will stay in touch.
There were other less significant connections, but the one thing they had in common was that so many people on the bus who were strangers to us, and whom often I would judge by their appearance or mannerisms—became members of a little time and space-encapsulated community. We all looked out for each other in little and big ways.
We had a great dinner with Mahriyanna, her two sisters and her niece when we arrived in Oceanside. I loved talking to her oldest sister as she drove me to Linda and Rob Williams house where I was staying for three days until my room in The Enchanted Garden, an intentional community in the San Diego State area, opened up. I have felt so much joy and satisfaction helping Linda with her garden and being together as we do various things, including going to a yoga class. Linda is a person who has accepted and loved me unconditionally for the past 24 years, and I cherish our friendship.
And soon I will settle into my own room for the next seven weeks and I know it will be a rich and rewarding experience as I connect with old friends and meet new ones.
But I will always remember those 46 hours on the bus where time seemed in a way to stand still, and Mahriyanna and I got to bond even more deeply as we shared this unique bus ride filled with little miracles and beautiful acts of kindness. I feel grateful to God for answering our prayers above and beyond what we asked.