Rodney had the look of someone whose life had been dealt a bad hand. My first thought was to move past him, but beside him was an empty seat. The only available seats meant sharing with a stranger anyway, so I asked if I could share his seat and he graciously said yes.
It would have been easy to sit there and ignore him as I waited to reach my trolley stop, but that seemed absolutely snobbish. So Rodney and I had a great conversation. Had I not started it, however, there probably would not have been one.
He was soft-spoken and unassuming. Seems he just rides round and round the trolley route for hours every day to be in the air conditioning and to be around other people.
In his hand, he held a very small Styrofoam cup of soup, most likely from a soup kitchen. He said he wasn’t homeless, but I’m not convinced.
He seemed to know and love his city – Charleston, SC – informing me of what was happening along our route. He was extremely versed on the use of the trolley and there I was – a complete novice. Before I got off at my stop, he had walked me through trolley-riding 101!!!
It was only later that it really hit me how much our worlds collided. Here I was visiting a city that had 7 million visitors last year. There was money in my wallet and a new bracelet on my arm. A driver picked me up at my motel and deposited me where I wanted to go. I rode the free trolley not because I had to, but because my feet needed the break.
Rodney, on the other hand, was obviously doing without the extras of life; maybe even the necessities.
Why do I even share this? What is my point?
Our worlds may be different, but inside each of us beats a heart that keeps us alive. We all have hopes and dreams and joys and hurts. We all struggle to find our way sometime. Although we aren’t all children of God, as that comes when we receive Jesus in faith, we are all creations of God – fearfully and wonderfully made. We all desire to be treated with dignity and respect. If the outside trappings were removed, we’d look pretty much alike.
My ride with Rodney wasn’t an accident. I told him I believed God brought us together so we could meet and he could teach me how to use the trolley. He just beamed.
Did I change his life? No!! He probably hasn’t thought a single thought about me since that day. But I have thought about him. I have wondered where he sleeps at night and if he’s getting enough to eat. I wonder if others sit with him and interact in conversation. I wonder what he would do if they didn’t let him ride and ride and ride the trolley.
But for the grace of God, that could be me in his place.
Sitting with Rodney that day reminded me to be grateful for what the Lord has seen fit to give to me, yet to never take it for granted. It also reminded me that every person is important. Who we are isn’t because of what we own or how we look. It goes much, much deeper than that.
Riding with Rodney reminded me that we need to see past the covering and find the real person; that person who so desires to be loved and respected, just as we do.
Lots of love, Sharon