Thursday, November 29, 2007

Six in the City - compassion for the bus lady.

I noticed something else about the bus lady this morning. She was still on her perch this morning, still selectively greeting only the dark-skinned women who boarded the bus, and I sat right behind her. She had The Bible in her hands this morning and an orange-colored highlighter in one hand. I could see over her shoulder and I was interested in which passages she was highlighting. I noticed this morning that when a male or a light-skinned person boarded the bus instead of greeting them she would tap her bible with her finger and say "Mmm-hmm, that's right, that's right" loud enough for the boarding passenger to hear.

So, I put my reading glasses on and noticed she was reading from Judges and she was highlighting every word on the page. Then I watched her a little longer, seeing which passages she was highlighting, and it dawned on me what's really going on.

She can't read.

Her highlights were random. They would end in mid-sentence, on articles, and then she would tap on the page on a place she had long passed in her highlighting when a male or light-skinned person boarded the bus and mutter her "Mmm-hmm, that's right, that's right" and then go back to the highlighting every word on the page, including the page number at the bottom and the chapter-verse citations at the top.

My heart sank, all of the disapproval and superiority I felt over this woman melted away as I realized that she can't read and she's so ashamed of it that she goes through this elaborate ritual to disguise it.

How tragic, she can't study her religion on her own at all, all she knows of it is what she's told by whatever preacher is trying to extract a tithe from her. She's isolated from her greater Faith community.

If she belongs to a church, it seems likely that no one knows her well enough to help her with this profound social disability. That may be because she works to hide it so, but she didn't do such a good job with a random guy on the bus, did she? If there were someone showing her the loving attention, patience, compassion, understanding, and good-will that characterized the life that Jesus Christ sought to lead, I believe she would have gotten the help she needs by her age. Her Faith community has failed her and she might not even know that.

That is just so sad.

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