I know this sounds crazy, but I was “called” to make this trip (I mean, really, who would choose to spend two months on a bus?). Some might call it the voice of God. The Quakers, call it the “still small voice within the soul.” Others may not have a name for it, but are likely to suggest that my "voices" can be mollified with just the right mix of meds and talk therapy.
Anyway, the voice came to me one morning a few months ago. It was the weekend following the church shootings in Charleston. There were also two cop shootings that same week. I found myself disillusioned, asking: “Is this the best we can do as a people?” That’s when a voice came to me, saying: “Go on a bus and tell their stories.” Yes, it was similar to the “Build it and they will come” voice from Field of Dreams. Except I’m not in Iowa. But I heard the voice and I knew what it meant: go find the hope, the humanity that exists somewhere out there. I questioned the whole bus thing, but the voice was adamant about the mode of transportation required for this journey.
Let me pause here to take my meds!
As I approach this journey, two things are clear to me. First, it’s the right thing for me to do at this point in my life. I wouldn't have heard this "voice" 10 or 20 years ago (to be clear, I was hearing voices, lots of voices. Just not this one). I'm also clear that this little project of mine might fail. I understand that there's a lot of distrust in our world and people on a bus or in a terminal might not feel safe enough to tell me their story. I don’t have any expectations about how this will turn out. I just know that I have to get on that bus, cram myself into one of those seats, and let the road take me where it will.
So, I’m off at 6PM, Tuesday September 8, 2015. As the bus pulls away, I will take comfort in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, from a speech he gave about 100 years ago. (Thanks to my friend and spiritual coach, Deni Tato, for sharing these words with me):
THE MAN IN THE ARENA
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”