Monday, June 9, 2008


I have mentioned before that I am taking a summer course for English 1110, which is College English 1. Because it is a summer course, and therefore only 8 weeks long vs. the usual 16, we have to fit a weeks worth of studying and coursework into each class. This "week" one of our assignments is to write about a time, recently, that we practiced Agape. The focus of the class is the Civil Rights Movement and we have begun reading essays written by King, Rustin and Baldwin as well as looking at quotes and background about Gandhi.

In his essay, Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, King rights that Agape is a Greek term for love. And this particular kind of love is the kind that God has for us and that we must strive to have for our "enemies." A love which is not romantic, but which takes another person's humanity into consideration. Agape is at the heart of nonviolent resistance because it is through Agape that we understand and are able to keep ourselves from violence.

So, how do I write about having agape when there is no one I can think of that I hate? Hate is a really strong word, one I try to stop myself from using. Words have to much strength to use them lightly- "starving", "lame", "retarded" - these are terms my peers use constantly, many not giving a second thought to their use of words that debilitate people's minds.

But I digress.

So, I don't feel like I have a really strong argument, but here is the story I plan to write about for my assignment:

I was going to ride the bus to school last Tuesday, and I ended up having to run for the bus, which was, surprisingly, more or less on time (very rare for that particular route). Anyway, I was paying in change, and as I began to put the money in the slot, the bus driver jerked out of his stopped position and began driving down University. Well, although I was holding on, it was unexpected and I ended up dropping a dime. The bus driver, in a rather snarky tone, said, "I guess that would have been easier of you had gotten it ready on the side walk, huh?", to which I replied (equally snarky, I must admit), "well, I would have if I had the time, but I just got there when you pulled up!"

So, I am slightly annoyed already. The bus is pretty full, as it always is, and I begin to move towards the back where there seems to be a disproportionate number of seats open. As I reach the rear side-facing seats the group sitting in back calls out to me to watch out, because someone has vomited on a seat. I move to sit in the last row of forward facing seats instead, and see that the vomit is running under the seats on the floor. But what can I do? Somebody will need to sit there so there will be enough room, and better it be me then someone who doesn't notice and gets it on their shoes. So I sit down and gingerly place my feet on either side of the vomit-stream. I can see it is already drying.

I watch as the bus pulls into the next stop where a young white woman and an elderly Muslim gentleman are waiting. As the bus stops they both gesture to one another to board first. As they stand in that awkward yet pleasant moment when these sorts of oddities of respect occur, the bus driver yells out to them, "well, one of you get on already!" in an exasperated tone. Exasperation after a second of waiting, really? I pay close attention to the interaction between the bus driver and these new riders, and observe what I expect to see from him, based on my limited observance of his personality. He does not tell them of the vomit in the back.

In fact, for the entire 20 min. ride, he does not tell a single person about it. The only thing that saves anyone from sitting in it are the people near by who let them know. This is a public health concern! a small child could easily sit there or put there hand in it, and we all know where a child's hand ends up eventually! This is why the driver is supposed to take care of this as soon as possible!

I think of calling and reporting him. It would not be hard - I have my cell phone out, I see that the bus number is 502 and I have metro transit on speed-dial, I could call and report him while I am riding! Oh the joys of modern convenience!

But wait, who is this man? Why is he so unkind, and why is he neglecting to do his job? Does he have a family? My first thought is for his hypothetical children who may not have enough to eat or be able to go to the doctor...but I know that is unlikely. Bus drivers make good wages here, especially veteran ones, which this man appears to be.

Still, it has made me think...what else could be going on in this man's life right now that he is so distracted that his sense of common decency has escaped him, as well as his understanding of his job? Maybe his mother just died or his wife left him. Maybe he really wants go to Pride, but can't find the courage to come out to his friends (just kidding!)

I don't know. All I know is that he was disrespectful to me and to the other riders on that bus. I had an opportunity to report it. He would have been reprimanded. If I had been upset enough, he would have been forced to call and apologize (yeah, that's right, I live in Minnesota).

I had no reason to like this man, and I don't.

But by putting my phone away, I practiced Agape, the act of loving someone who does not show you any love in return.

1 comment:

Auntie Knickers said...

Good example! It's easier to show Agape to (for example) Chinese earthquake victims, who, while they don't know us, haven't done anything to hurt us. MLK's idea was more like yours - showing love to those who "despitefully use you." (Extra points if you look up the quotation.)