I took the bus to work this morning.
Now, that’s not all that unusual – I often take the bus to work. But today, Kathy had to keep the car with her, and so even though it was sprinkling, I had to take the bus to get downtown. The fare is $1.25.
There’s something remarkably humanizing that can happen when you use public transportation instead of your private vehicle. You share the experience of the trip with your fellow passengers. There were two apparently deaf ladies, communicating furiously with sign language. There was a heavy-set man, obviously a waiter, who got off at the same stop I did. I’ve seen him a few times around the neighborhood, but I don’t yet know his name. There were a handful of other folks, and a very young driver whom I hadn’t seen before.
Taking the bus humbles you just a bit. You have to adjust your schedule to fit theirs – that bus is going to go by my house at 8:32, whether I’m ready or not. I have neighbors who have to take two buses, and then walk some distance, just to get to work. Sometimes that means they may have to leave their house way before time to be at work, to allow time for the ride, the transfer and the walk. Or maybe they need a really understanding boss, who won’t hold it against them if they miss a connection and show up late for work. And when it’s the end of the day, they still have an hour’s worth of a bus ride just to get home.
One of the disciplines believers are called to practice is fasting. Remember that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus didn’t say, “IF you fast…” – He said, “WHEN you fast.” Fasting, as we all know, means to voluntarily give up food for a specific time, skipping a meal to have extra time to pray or read the Bible, for example. But fasting is also a good way to identify with the poor and the hungry. When we discipline ourselves by going without food, we remember that there are those who are hungry, and we learn compassion by identifying with them.
Giving up food is not the only kind of fasting. Sometimes we can fast from television, from the Internet, or from anything else – even our cars! – if it will help draw us closer to God, to realize that HE is our ultimate desire, and to enable us better to identify with others.
This idea of IDENTIFICATION with others is important to God. I am convinced it is a major factor in Jesus’ coming to Earth – so that, as Hebrews says, we could have a High Priest who was tempted in every point as we are, yet was without sin.
Let me respectfully suggest that, from time to time, you leave your car parked at home and take the bus. Yes, it’s good for the environment and all those reasons, but more than that, it’s a good way of identifying with, and sharing in the humanity of others.
Not bad for a buck and a quarter.