What I Learned on the way to Mesa, Arizona

On the Way to Mesa, Arizona.

During my college years I was not a stranger to long bus and train rides. After all, I lived in Michigan, and my parents moved to Arizona, and the graduate school I went to was in Kansas, so there were some long trips during these yeas—especially in graduate school when I sold my car to make it through a tough financial summer.

One of these trips was a bus trip from Joplin to Benson. I had a friend take me from Pittsburg, Kansas to Joplin, Missouri (about half an hour drive) and I got on the bus. By now I was experienced with this kind of travel. I learned through experience the need for some essentials: ear plugs, a blanket, a book, and food. With these items the trip could be not only endured—but often enjoyed.

I boarded the bus in Joplin and sat down near the front (ever since high school I learned to stay away from the back of the bus). I don’t recall when a conversation started between me and the African young man next to me, but it started with him asking some questions. “How far is Mesa, Arizona? He asked me.

I replied, “Well, I going to Benson, Arizona and Mesa is a few hours farther than Benson—I think Benson a about a day and a half away.”

He then told me, “I come from Africa and I have a new job in Mesa. I did not realize that America was so big. One thing led to another and he also confided in me. “I have not eaten since New York—over a day ago.”  

I opened my bag of goodies and pulled out an apple and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and gave it to him. He smiled and ate.

About twelve hours later we arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We had a long lay-over here, so he asked me to go to the diner with him. He told me he wanted to buy me dinner, so naturally (and since I was out of food), I said, “Sure.”

After our large and wonderful dinner together he said, “Do you know what my favorite thing about America is so far?”  

I said, “What’s that.”

“People like you,” he replied with a warm smile.

I had to smile too, and naturally I said, “Thanks.”  

I don’t remember too much more of this trip, but I have never forgotten the gift I got that day. How sharing food can mean much more than filling one’s stomach. It is a part of living a Joyful Life—one of honesty, love, and tolerance.


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