Love and the Shuttle Bus

by Robert D. Farrell, SJ



Rev. Robert D. Farrell, SJ is a priest of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus and is a native of Leominster, MA. Ordained in 1964, Fr. Farrell has held teaching posts at other Jesuit schools, some of which are now defunct, including Baghdad College, St. Stanislaus Novitiate (Shadowbrook), and Cranwell School. Since leaving his position at Cheverus High School in 1990, he has been at Boston College serving as an adjunct professor of English and formerly as an assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences.

By the time I return to St. Mary’s Hall in December I will have taken around three hundred and seventy five trips on the shuttle bus. Saint Ignatius asks his followers to try and find God in all things, and I decided to reflect on the ways in which I found God in my bus rides – or how I found manifestations of God’s goodness in my frequent journeys.


On one very windy and cold February day I jumped out the back door of the bus and was confronted with an absolute lake in the gutter outside 2000 Commonwealth Avenue. I hesitated for a few moments and then decided to leap over the water. An old man is not a dependable leaper, and I wound up in a snow bank. I was struggling to get myself and my heavy bag of books and papers out of the snow, but I was having little success. Three very lovely Boston College co-eds who had leapt successfully came to my aid, grabbed my hand and pulled me from the snow. I looked like an absolute misfit trying to squirm from the snow bank. My joyous rescuers disappeared with great chatter and laughter.


A few weeks ago, after some long hours in the office, I boarded a shuttle bus at the Carney stop. Crawling through the crowd I found a suitable standing spot in the center of the vehicle. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to face a smiling student who was offering me his seat. He was an Asian lad, and I thanked him for his kindness with great sincerity because I was sure that he was more weary than I was. I told him that I had been sitting down all afternoon and that I was happy to have an opportunity to stretch. He smiled and slipped into his seat.


Less than a week later I was once again riding in a crowded shuttle bus and received another tap on the shoulder. This time it was a young Asian woman who was offering me her kindness. I thanked her very warmly for her concern, and I suggested that she sit down and relax. That night at dinner I told some of my fellow Jesuits about the kind offers of the Asian students. They said that they were not surprised because Asian young people are taught to have great respect for elders. What a blessing from God, I thought, to have such caring young people among us.


A year ago there was a very friendly black bus driver whom I would see regularly. I used to hop on the bus through the front door and say, “How ya doin?” and he would always respond, “I am blessed.” I found this situation to be very ironic. Here I was, a Jesuit priest, giving him a mindless secular greeting, and he was reminding me of the presence of God’s blessings. After several meetings with this fine fellow, I began to realize that I had been giving very little attention to the fact that God was the source of all of the endless blessings in my life. I started to give this rich truth attention in my prayer and have continued to do so. What a wonderful blessing it was for me to come away from a series of shuttle bus rides with a new appreciation of God’s goodness to me.


Last May I was waiting for the shuttle bus to start up outside Conte Forum. The driver was that fine elderly black man. He got off his seat and turned to me. “Father,” he said, “I’ve got cancer. I am not worrying about it though. I am in the hands of the Lord.” I do not know when I have ever heard a more genuine and heartfelt profession of faith. I told the man that I would keep him in my prayers. I have not seen the faithful follower of the Lord at all during this fall semester. Perhaps he has been called back. This was the man who would always lower the front step of the bus before I tried to get on. I think he was a good man. He surely brought a lot of love to the shuttle bus.


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