I'm kind of sheltered here in River City, Alaska.
I know there are people in our community who deal with difficult physical and mental challenges. I also know there are those who struggle with substance abuse, addiction and homelessness.
But I don't see them very often. Honestly, here in my little town, I'm not really sure where to find them.
It doesn't feel good to admit that. I should know.
That changes whenever I visit The Big City. It's a really big city, especially for a country girl.
I like the public transportation there, it's a tram called The Max. It's affordable, user friendly and convenient. It's great. And it opens my eyes.
One night I was on The Max with a man whose body twitched uncontrollably. He spent the entire ride talking to a passenger who wasn't there.
A lot of twitchy people ride The Max.
I once saw a little woman board with an impressive collection of plastic grocery bags tied to her walker. She was wearing open shoes and had horribly deformed feet.
I've had strong, healthy men ask me if I can spare a dollar. I've ridden near a group of ridiculous teenagers speaking an unintelligable gang language I could not understand. I saw one guy get arrested the minute he stepped off the tram.
Though some of these things have made me uncomfortable, the folks I find the scariest on The Max are those who never look around, never smile and never speak. That's, like, everybody. Even when scrunched together shoulder to shoulder, the overwhelming majority of riders never look up, never say anything...they never really acknowledge there's anybody else on the tram.
I always find myself wondering about these people. Where have they come from, where are they going? Do they have somebody waiting for them to get home?
Do they know Jesus?
Am I one of them?
Jesus was drawn to illness and instability. He healed those with deformities, disease and demons. He never turned them away.
And he had strong words for those who lacked compassion and understanding; who ignored the downtrodden.
Don't worry, I'm not going to start conversing with drug addicts and gang bangers the next time I ride The Max. But what if I bury my head and choose not to interact with somebody who needs an encouraging word? Is there anything wrong with making eye contact and sharing a smile?
Why am I asking these questions?
I should know.