My 'wow' moment took place on a public transportation bus today. Let me share :)
Our staff was faced with a challenged today called the Urban Plunge, and I was partnered with a girl named Lauren. In order to get to our location, Lauren and I had to take the bus. When we first boarded, we were some of the first people on the bus so it was pretty empty. Logically, as our bus route increased, the population on the bus increased as well. At one point, I looked up from my seat and I noticed that everyone standing in the middle of the bus was male, and almost everyone sitting down was a female. I thought it was odd, and didn't know what to think but I didn't make much of it.
A couple stops later, a man in a wheelchair was trying to board the bus. When he tried, the entire bus moved towards the back so that he could make his way on. This meant that I was going to have to stand in the aisle. As I moved further towards the back of the bus with a lot of the other women, I noticed that the few men who had been sitting started to stand in the aisles, to make the seats near them empty. None of the men sat back down, they all made sure that woman and children occupied their previous seats.
This shouldn't seem like a big deal. But for some reason, I started to tear up. When I had first boarded the bus, I noticed that I was a white minority in a poorer area than what I am used to, who is accustomed to taking a car to drive anywhere I need to go. I immediately (and unknowingly) had judged all the men I had been near as a possible threat. I guarded my purse and kept to myself. Little did I know, regardless of my poor and judgmental perceptions of these men, each of them would stand to offer his seat so that I could be comfortable and sit. They treated me equal to their wives and the other women around me.
Essentially, I received an act of love today that I didn't deserve. I, unknowingly, projected my socio-economic stereotypes onto a group of people in a public bus, and I had no substance to my stereotypes. After taking a simple 15 minutes to sit on the bus, all of the stereotypes that I had were broken, and I was the one in the wrong. Admitting this is a bit embarrassing. However, being able to share the love that I experienced through my bus ride far outweighs the embarrassment that I faced.
My challenge for tomorrow? I would love to show someone loving mercy who doesn't deserve it. After having experienced it today, I know the benefits that come through this grace. I was embarrassed when I was proven wrong, and I was filled with sorrow when I realized how judgmental my background has made me. However, if I can let someone experience the selflessness I saw when I was given a seat, I would be absolutely thrilled to be a part of that :)
-Stephanie, CSM Washington DC Summer 2010 City Host