Her Name Is ...
By Paul Weingartner
June 24, 2012
Everything about the morning suggested it was going to be a normal commute to the office. The chilly February air made the walk to the bus stop refreshing as it awakened the senses more than a cup of hot coffee. The streetlights formed a contrast against the dark sky as the eastern horizon offered telltale signs of a rising sun.
I climbed onto the city bus, slid my ticket into the payment receptacle, and quickly made my way to an isolated seat near the center of the bus.
After wiring my ears to my digital book reader, I made myself comfortable and closed my eyes, hoping to isolate myself from any inter-commuter communications. This was my only “self-time” all day, and I treasured it.
The bus jerked us around like cattle on the way to a livestock auction with its rapid accelerations and sharp turns. Hard braking threatened to throw us out of our seats when the driver spotted a prospective rider hidden in the darkness.
The population of the bus grew with every turn in the route. There was the young college student expressing his resentment for early classes (as if the driver could do something about it). There was the grandmother taking her sleepy 4-year-old granddaughter to preschool. There was the guy who often slept outside near the bar when he would leave too late to catch an evening bus home.
We were thrust against our seats as the driver accelerated rapidly to take advantage of the only straight section of the route, and held on tightly as he braked hard for a stop in front of a group home and Section 8 housing.
There they were: the regular group of folks eager for their routine at “the workshop,” each with a cognitive disability, and some with an added physical challenge.
The meager hourly pay for menial labor at “the workshop” added to their blessing of spending a day in an environment where a disability is normal and not a hindrance to a social life.
Among the regular assortment of men at the stop was the only woman, young and always smiling. I watched her climb silently onto the bus with her usual eclectic mixture of worn-out clothes.
Her favorite seat was available. It was near the front of the bus facing sideward toward the aisle. There she could observe everybody and monitor all conversations. Every morning she watched silently with a perpetual smile that seemed to come from within as it brightened the bus. What depth of character lay behind the smile?
Curiosity overcame me. I took the risk, broke my invisible cocoon of privacy, and attempted to start a conversation.
“It is another cold day, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is another cold day,” she replied.
I kept the conversation going.
“We have had a lot of cold days this February, haven’t we?”
She replied, “We have had a lot of cold days this February.”
“You know,” I said, “I think you are right. We have had a lot of cold days this February.”
“Yes,” she replied, “I think I am right. We have had a lot of cold days this February.”
As long as I was able to initiate simple conversation, she enthusiastically participated, thrilled by the human value she felt by my attention.
From that moment on, every early morning commute compelled me to sacrifice a measure of my isolation for a simple conversation. But I could see the joy it brought her.
A family move to the other side of the city changed my bus route. Now we rarely see each other except for an occasional meeting at the bus transfer station. When that happens she lights up with an enthusiasm that radiates.
So what is the name of this young lady who consistently interrupted my morning isolation? Everybody has a name.
Her cognitive skills are weak. She wears strange-looking clothes and is a mere observer on a city bus. She depends upon welfare and government assistance for her basic provision. Her days are occupied with subsidized, repetitive tasks for a check that amounts to less than her electric bill. She offers no noticeable contribution to society.
But what is her name? Everybody has a name.
On Earth her name is Least of These.
But in heaven, her name is Jesus.
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:40, NLT).
PAUL WEINGARTNER is the director of the Assemblies of God Center for the Blind.
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