Bus trip opens doors to encounters with angels

June 30, 2012
Dianne Aid

Editor’s Note: Dianne Aid is in the process of collecting stories from the streets, fields and back roads. “My encounters with many have been my own redemption from seeing a world I thought I had to have, never could achieve, and lived with the low self esteem of scarcity for years and years.  Through some of the poorest in the world, I have found the abundance of life that God intends for us,” she says.

Part of my personal rule is to strive for one day a week during which I will not use my car.

I move around in a power wheelchair, and my 10-year -old van is the only private automobile I can drive. I cannot afford to replace it, so I have to take care of it when things go wrong, as they did recently.

My car was in the shop, and I had just returned from almost a week in Washington D.C. the night before. I was pretty tired, but I needed to get to two meetings in Seattle from my home in Auburn, 30 miles away. “OK, I can do this,” I assured myself. “I can take the bus.” I called King County Metro to get my routes, making sure the bus stops were wheelchair accessible, and I was assured they were. Directions in hand, out the door I went.

My first stop was at “Spokane Street and Bus Way,” then I was to roll two blocks east and a block south to my meeting location, which was directly behind the bus stop where I would need to be to catch the buses to my next meeting.  Heading east - no sidewalks! Dangerous for anyone, but the traffic under the Spokane Street Bridge was rather light, so I could dodge it. But I was dumped out onto Airport Way, a busy road - especially at rush hour.  There were sidewalks, but no ramps to get up onto them. I was stuck in oncoming traffic!

Some construction workers who were working nearby came to the rescue. They stopped traffic while a “scout” looked for a place I could get up out of the traffic. He located a driveway about a block away. So, up I was, and no way to get down and on to my meeting. The construction workers called the Seattle Police Department to come to the rescue. I called friends who were in the meeting. They came and planned to escort me between two cars, but the construction workers would not allow it. While we were waiting for the police, a homeless man with a pit bull approached and wanted to be helpful. I know my wheelchair can make dogs anxious, and I certainly did not want to upset the pit bull!

The police showed up about 45 minutes later. The officer left on a scouting trip to find the best way for me to go. I was left under the watchful eye of Angel #1 - the man and his pit bull.  The officer returned and instructed me to come back down the driveway, follow his patrol car across the street, and back into oncoming traffic. Now the game plan was for me to follow the police car in my wheel chair, and off I went sailing southbound on Airport Way, and gracefully and fashionably late, arrived at my meeting to plan Seattle’s upcoming Immigration Reform Rally.

Bus trip two was uneventful and involved a transfer.  I now felt like an expert!

The long trip home began at 8:45 p.m. I had to roll about four blocks to the bus stop, which was in an area populated by many homeless folks.  I had seen them many times, sitting against walls, searching in dumpsters - part of the scene.  Now I was alone, my friends from the New Sanctuary Movement who followed me to the bus stop had left.  I had about 20 minutes to wait for the bus. The village came alive around me. A homeless man approached me and offered me a bus transfer so I would not have to pay for the bus trip. He was one very kind gentleman.

The bus came, and down Jackson Street we went. I was to catch a southbound bus in the “tunnels” under the streets of Seattle. Midway down Jackson, a group of men just coming from a community dinner boarded the bus, and a few overheard my conversation with the bus driver about how to get to the right side of the tracks in “the tunnels” to get the bus to Kent. The men chimed in, telling me exactly which way to go.  We arrive at the transfer stop. I was the last one off because the bus driver had to put the lift down.  I got off the bus, and three more angels were waiting to guide me to the bay in the tunnel to wait.

Several years back, our brother Mark MacDonald preached a sermon in which he used the image of seeing the world through Gospel eyes.  I saw the streets of Seattle with these Gospel eyes.  The man with the pit bull, the man who gave me the bus pass and the guides - all people with powerful ministries to the newcomer to the streets.

--Dianne Aid is director of the Jubilee Center at St. Matthew/San Mateo Episcopal Church in Auburn, Wash., and she serves on the National Executive Advisory Committee of Jubilee Ministry.