This is a story about my bus ride this morning, and how at the end of it, I told myself I must do better to practice what I preach.

I sat across Tim in my raincoat, overcautious dress and my scarf made of silk and unconscious bias. Tim had a short red beard, blue eyes, was neatly dressed, wore hiking boots and carried two stuffed backpacks.

In my peripherals I could see he was trying to catch my eye. To say something, but I ignored it and avoided giving him the unspoken invitation he was hoping for. I knew instinctively that his whole life was in those bags, but I pretended I couldn’t see him and I looked beyond him out the window.

I’d had a rough couple of days in my own world full of nothing worries, and living what most would consider a blessed life.

And with that, I closed my heart. I’m sorry, I’m still learning.

But thank God (Allah, Buddha, Mother Earth… the Universe?) for Sam. Sam is a stocky, Maori fellow and a regular on my morning bus route. He carries a crutch, has a limp and possesses a warm, welcoming face. Sam sat down next to Tim and Tim asked him what happened to him that he needed to use a crutch. It wasn’t my business at all, but I still thought to myself “wow… that’s personal”. Torn ligaments came the reply.

Tim then smiled and proceeded to tell Sam that he had just come from the hospital. Psychosis. He explained he felt unwell last evening, and just couldn’t get right by himself. He didn’t know why, but he had such a desperate feeling. A lost feeling. So he took himself to emergency for help. They did all the tests: blood pressure, heart rate, reflexes, checked his eyes and asked so many questions right up until this morning, when they diagnosed a psychotic episode of sorts. Of which he apparently has a known history.

Sam asked him kindly, if he was feeling any better now and Tim said yes, though a little shaken still. He was on his way to get the prescribed medication and find somewhere to sleep. He had money for a hotel, but he had lost his wallet and everything in it and a hotel would need his ID to check-in. He wasn’t sure what he would do.

Sam asked if Tim would join him for some breakfast and a chat to see if they could work out a solution together. I have money for food, Tim said, but thank you and Sam said Son, it’ll be free, on me, if you want my company.

Tim said no thank you again, and went on his way. Here were two strangers having a meaningful conversation. Sharing, seeing a need & seeking to fill it. My heart swelled up so big, I thought it might float out of my chest. Our poor Tim, alone and struggling. He had said that he was staying in a hostel a week or so ago when a group of men came to stay and beat him up so badly, before taking his wallet. That explains his healing split lip…

I wish I had at least looked him in the eye. Given him a real smile. I preach community love on the daily. I am so sorry, Tim.

{names and identifying details have been changed to protect privacy}

**featured artwork by Stormie Mills

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