I rode a city bus this week for the first time since the beginning of quarantine/shutdown in March. I had an appointment across town and was running late, when I saw the M34 pull right up to where I found myself on the sidewalk. In I jumped, through the back doors, and was greeted by lots of open seats and see through plastic curtains with chains separating the driver from the passengers on board.
I was also greeted by a greeting! As the doors closed and the bus pulled away from the curb, the bus driver got on the microphone. “Welcome, all essential workers!” he said. “And if you are on this bus, you are working. And if you are working right now, you are essential. The city of New York thanks you.” After a pause, the driver launched into a list of hellos and thank yous in many foreign languages. He must have had these greetings written down somewhere. I couldn’t see, but I could hear and make out Spanish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, French, Swahili, Arabic, Hebrew as well as a host of other languages I couldn’t identify in the moment.
It was beautiful. It was unexpected. And it had a wonderful effect on all of us riding the bus. Most people smiled. Some cheered when their language was offered, or answered back from where they sat. Others yelled out a goodbye in their native language as they got off at their stop. An existential offering of goodwill, rippling outward into our beautiful, beleaguered city.
Most days don’t offer us such clear invitations to connect (and maybe even access joy), but the obvious moments remind us to look for invitations more subtle and no less ubiquitous. Our faith claims that the Holy Spirit moves through all our experiences. Where is God’s presence made manifest in your daily ventures? Where is that same Spirit inviting you?