“Did you say your prayers this morning?” asked Grams as she twisted and pulled my hair through a rubber band that arrived with our newspaper that very morning. Wincing from the stinging pain, I shook my head to let her know I had. “Good girl! Jesus loves you,” she said in her usual sing-song way.
“Jesus loves you” was just one of Grandma’s favorite sayings. “God is good” and “Jesus is coming soon” were two other favorite one-liners. Grandma’s familiar catchphrases were not fancy or even unique, per se, but each carried deep meaning that she was happy to reveal to anyone who would listen. The witticism most frequently expressed by Grams was “God willing!” How silly of people to think they know what will happen today, tomorrow, next month or next year. “It’s in God’s hands,” she’d say. These were Grandma’s ice-breakers for the message of salvation.
When my two pig-tails were complete, Grandma grabbed her favorite white shawl and we headed out to the bus stop. Half a block away from the stop, her steps accelerated at the sound of the approaching bus. Judging my 6-year-old legs incapable of the road-runner-like speed needed to keep up, Grams hoisted me onto her sturdy hip and darted towards the humming vehicle now awaiting our arrival. With three swift steps up the stairs and a hearty greeting to the driver, we were safely on board.
Grandma took an aisle seat, as I dashed to secure the place of honor next to the window. I propped myself up on my knees and watched the world slowly passing by. Dozens of people crowded into the hot bus with each passing stop. It wouldn’t be long before it would be completely full. My little heart sank knowing my seat-ownership would soon come to an end. Grams perked up and surveyed the people on the jam-packed bus.
It was standing room only when we witnessed a middle-aged woman grasp for a nearby metal bar with one hand while clutching a bag of groceries with the other. We held our breath and watched her hop-hop-hop on one foot before eventually regaining her balance when the bus came to a particularly quick stop.
“Excuse me,” said Grams as she waved vigorously at the woman. “Have a seat here,” she said as she lifted me up, scooted towards the window and plopped me onto her lap. “Where are you headed, sister?” asked Grandma with sincere curiosity.
Of course, our new friend was not a relative. “Sister and brother” were endearing names used by people at our church but Grams knew no boundaries when it came to that sort of thing. Unlike most people I know, Grandma spoke the same way on the bus as she did at church.
“I’m headed to Park Terrace,” said Nancy as she lowered her bag of groceries to the floor. “I really appreciate the seat. I just finished a double at the restaurant and I don’t think my legs could handle another gravity defying stop,” she said with clear signs of exhaustion in her voice.
“It looked like you were struggling there, so I figured I’d better call you over before you lost everything,” said Grandma with serious underlying meaning. “So, you live at Park Terrace? Ah yes, there’s a nice jungle gym for the kids nearby and pleasant breezes this time of year,” said Grandma as she recalled positive attributes of the rundown state housing project.
“It's right on the bus line, too…God is good,” said Grams. My attention turned away from the passing cars, as I awaited Nancy’s response. Not everyone warmed up to Grandma’s ice-breakers.
“Hmm. Yes, I suppose so,” said Nancy as her day’s troubles seemed to thaw a degree or two. Nancy and Grams chatted about the weather, about family and work. Grams told Nancy that she remembered when she was her age – juggling a marriage, kids and a job. It wasn’t easy at all, recalled Grams. Grandma talked about how she found Jesus and how her faith in God got her through many, many rough patches in life.
Twenty minutes later Nancy disembarked the bus with an invitation to attend Paradise Chapel service on Sunday at 9 a.m. She promised she’d try to be there.
“Do you think she’ll really come?” I asked as the sluggish bus pulled away from Nancy’s stop.
“God willing,” said Grams, as she repositioned her shawl, scanning the crowded bus for anyone else in need of a lifeline.
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