I am looking forward to going home after the Christmas holidays as I board the Saskatchewan regional bus in Regina. I settle into a seat and pull out a book for my one-and-a-half hour trip to Weyburn.
But I’m distracted when a man comes aboard to say goodbye to one of the passengers near the front: a male teen wearing a hoodie and holding a plastic bag on his lap.
The man disembarks when it is time to leave and watches as the bus pulls away. Just then, the young passenger moves to the door of the bus, wanting off. The man comes back on and takes the boy to his seat. We try to leave again. The boy is up at the door, and the man is outside waving him to sit down. He comes aboard — again. This time, he does not hide his anger. Everyone on the bus is fully attentive to the situation now, silently witnessing distress.
We pull onto the street, but within half a block the boy is at the door begging to be let off. “Open the door,” he repeats. He finds the lever that opens the door, and the driver struggles to restrain him from pushing it. The driver repeatedly encourages him to return to his seat. The boy is frantic now, desperate to get off the bus. In my mind, I silently page someone to the front of the bus to help resolve the situation. But who?
Listen to more of Sharon Elliott's story here.
My husband and I facilitated an adult study group at our church, Grace United in Weyburn, using a study guide that asked the question, “Who is God?” We changed it to, “When is God?” and the room instantly filled with personal stories describing times of being moved from complacency to compassion to action. So, when is God? God is when you move from your comfortable seat on the bus to assist someone in need.
Before I know it, I am kneeling by the stairs where the young man is urging the driver to let him off. I try to take his arm, but he is rigid and resistant. Somehow, I gently coax him back to his seat. He finally complies. I crouch in the aisle and ask him questions about his Christmas. He received new clothes, went tobogganing. I get him to move by the window so I can sit with him. Favourite colour, blue. Likes school.
As we head out of Regina, he continues to tell the driver to turn the bus around, but we are committed to the highway now. He looks back at the city as we descend into the darkness of southeast Saskatchewan. When we arrive in Weyburn, I say goodbye and tell him he’ll be okay. I arrange for another passenger to see him through to his destination.
I later learn he lives with autism. I learn how difficult it is when a routine has been established, as it had been during his two-week break, then comes to an end. I am reminded of times on my journey when I resisted change. When I wanted to turn around and go back. Times when I needed the compassion and coaching of a stranger to help me move forward.
When is God? God is now. Gently paging us to the front of the bus to help someone in need.
Sharon Elliott is a licensed lay worship leader in Weyburn, Sask. Listen to her story here.