A Thing to be Grasped


The MBTA Number 1 bus plods its way down Massachusetts Avenue all the way to Dudley Square Station. Traveling on this bus is not for the faint of heart, the city hater, or the one who likes order. Along the way it picks up everyone from world-class musicians heading to Berklee College of Music, to the chronically ill, on their way to Boston Medical Center, to the Back Bay city dweller, ready to spend an evening at the symphony.

And the trip is never without a story. It’s a cross spectrum of humanity, all meeting in this enclosed space. As I travel on the Number 1 bus, I am struck by how important it is to see humanity in this way.

The Number 1 bus is no respecter of persons. It doesn’t matter how rich, how poor, how smart you are. You’re just another one of us, crowded in to a space where 10 different languages are spoken. Every age group is represented from teen moms with babies to old Haitian grandmothers, and every shade of skin color from pale white with freckles to deep brown with dark eyes.

Periodically fights erupt and someone comes forward as peacemaker. At other times a person’s behavior strikes everyone as so comical that there is muffled laughter and nods of understanding.

I don’t pretend to know the mind of Christ, but I think he would like this bus. I think he would use this bus to engage people and dig into their current reality, to heal the sick, to open the eyes of the blind, to change the bigoted, to encourage the teen mom. He would move over and give his seat to the man struggling to stand, would help the woman lift her heavy bags of oranges off the floor.

I think he would see this as a microcosm of the world, in language, color, and brokenness. His eyes, alight with compassion, would be always looking for a way to help. 

When I’m riding the bus the verse that comes to mind is from the book of Philippians where Paul is urging the church to “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself”.*

I’m struck by how often I’m struggling to grasp for equality, better still struggling to be ‘greater than’. And this fighting to be equal or more? It is exhausting. Yet I’m told with surety that Christ Jesus did not do this. He ‘emptied’ himself.

There is something about this Number 1 bus that helps me empty myself. In that sweaty, enclosed space – too hot in winter from stifling heat and too cold in summer from artificial air conditioning — I understand that I am just one of millions in this world, no better, no stronger, no greater. Just one of the millions that needs the light of Christ and the hope of a Gospel message.

Just one on the Number 1 bus, that needs Jesus, his eyes alight with compassion, always ready to help. 

*Philippians 2:5-7a