The best part of public transportation is the rare opportunity to sit back and observe everything around you. There is no concern about speed, starts, and stops, just an ordinary journey to a destination.
Then again, as the train stops midrail and lights flicker, I question my choice of transportation. Today I travel to the city. It appeared prudent to take the train, exit at the street across from my destination, instead of driving for two hours. An overhead announcement alerts passengers to “remain seated.” We are stopped next to the highway, distanced from rushing cars. I have time for a delay.
I pull a small notepad from my purse. In one hour I will present a grant request to fund a clean water project abroad. I read over main points, research, necessity, and finances requested for aid. Dear God, help me persuade the committee to provide aid for this humanitarian project.
In the train, traveling companions are restless. A little girl crawls onto her mother’s lap; our eyes meet as she embraces her mother. “I’m thirsty, Mama,” she whispers. Her mother explains they will arrive home soon. The girl hides her face.
A small brown paper bag in my purse contains two small water bottles: visual aids for my presentation. With a quick explanation I hand them to the mother, who thanks me. As I watch the child quench her thirst, the task ahead becomes obvious: she is not the only thirsty child in this world.
* * *
Inside the building my destination is Floor 25, Conference Room 5.
“Good morning, ma’am. What floor?”
A gentleman wearing a uniform matching the colors of the lobby décor stands waiting for a response. As we begin the journey he smiles and offers me a bottle of water. Water? I am about to request funding for water. I accept the gift. As the door opens, the gentleman points to the conference room: “I wish you well in your presentation.” As I walk down the corridor, I pray for the Holy Spirit to touch the hearts of all who can make a difference today. Then I step forward.
* * *
Four hours later I wait. I will know the outcome of my presentation when I arrive at a “meet and greet” gathering inside a lobby reception room. As the elevator doors open I see the man again. This time he simply presses the LOBBY button. As we begin our descent he shares: “I grew up where we worked to make water clean, drinkable.” He pauses, looks away.
“I help ordinary people reach their destination here. I watch, listen, know why they come. I believe ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things when guided by God’s grace; we're reminded not to forget where we came from and to move forward, to help others.”
Sometimes it’s a thirsty village or a thirsty little girl on a train.
The elevator doors open at the lobby, and I see the reception room. My travel companion hands me another bottle of water. “Congratulations on the grant. God bless His ministry.”
The elevator door closes. I look at the water bottle: Ordinary people, humbly invited to work in God’s extraordinary projects. Amen.
Dixil Rodríguez, a college professor and volunteer hospital chaplain, lives in Texas.