I went away to college far enough away from home that I had to get on a plane. My father came with me and we spent a week filling my dorm room with all the necessary things and figuring out a new city. The last day of orientation was a Sunday. We went church-hunting that morning and found one we really liked, but we had gotten there by rental car. So my dad helped me map out a bus route for the next week when I was on my own. Then we hugged good-bye and he said some really sweet things that I can’t type here because I’m blogging from work and I’ve already cried enough this week. I love my Papa. Just FYI.
I started my classes, made some friends, and began to get the lay of the land. By the next Sunday, it had started to sink in that this new adventure was not a temporary stint away from home, but my new life. I got up that morning and got ready for church, already sad to be going alone. You see, church is a big thing in my life. Until I left for college, I had gone to the same church for almost 17 years. I knew everyone there. Half the people on stage in the worship band were related to me. The rest were so entrenched in my history that they were basically family anyways.
So, this drizzly Sunday morning, I headed out alone to face my first foray into public transportation. Being a public transportation virgin and geographic dunce, I had no idea which side of the road I should wait on for the bus, since there was a stop on either side. I also didn’t realize that there would be more than one bus line arriving at that stop at the same time.
So I got on the wrong bus. Not only was its route different from the one I needed, but it was heading in the opposite direction from the church. It took me about 15 minutes before I realized something wasn’t right. And it took me another 10 minutes to work up the courage to ask the bus driver.
He said, “Oh honey, this bus ain’t gonna get you there.”
And I said, “GAH!”
Luckily, he was a kind man, so he took pity on me and explained the system to me a little better. Then he pulled up to a stop and pointed across the road. “Run and catch that bus before it drives away! The driver should be able to help you after that.” I leapt out of the bus and darted across the street.
And almost got hit by a car.
Because “look both ways before crossing the road” was not in the forefront of my brain right then. The car squealed to a stop and the driver honked and flipped me off. I waved, tears in my eyes and my heart beating a mile a minute, and hopped on the other bus. All the occupants were staring at me like I was the dumbest person they had ever seen. And I thought, “I almost just DIED!”
The bus dropped me off downtown, about six blocks from where I started. So, a half hour wasted. I wandered around, in full panic-mode. Then a homeless man told me I was beautiful. It made me smile a little. He promptly turned and continued his conversation with his hand. I decided his judgment was sound enough to keep the compliment.
Eventually, I found the right series of busses and got to church about five minutes before the service. Which was an amazing feat, considering how much time I wasted. I took my seat and looked at the 1000 other people there (it was a very large church in a refurbished warehouse, which was cool but overwhelming). The music started. I stood to worship. It was a remixed old hymn, one of my favorites. I knew no one on stage. There were no Seatons to be found.
I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I had almost DIED several times that morning. I had been lost and worried I’d never get home again. I was alone. A homeless man was the first non-related person in my life to compliment my beauty and the implications of that were not lost on me. So I did what any self-respecting 18 year old away from home for the first time would do. I began to leak all kinds of attractive fluids all over the front of my face.
After the sermon, I had reached my limit. So I went out into the lobby to leave. And realized I was going to have to brave the busses to get back to campus. I sank into a chair and began to sob again. A young pastor saw me losing it and came up to me. He placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m Pastor Jamie Seaton.* Are you okay?”
*His last name wasn’t really Seaton, but then again, mine isn’t either. His last name was, however, the exact same as mine. So, you know, go with it.
The fact that I’d found a Seaton combined with the fact that he touched me sent me on a new round of sobbing. You see, we’re a family that hugs. We hug when we leave a room. We hug for no reason at all. We’re touchers. It’s just who we are. And when he put his hand on my shoulder, I realized it was the first time anyone had voluntarily (read: not accidentally bumped into me or stepped on my toes) touched me since I had hugged Papa good-bye a week ago.
I’m sure I was making a scene and the pastor seemed bewildered as to how to help me. Then a sweet woman named Alison walked up and said, “I’m new here, too. I’ve been in your shoes. I have a car. Would you like a ride home?” And I cried some more. Then I nodded. And I got in the car with a complete stranger. Apparently, all my childhood rules had flown out the window that morning.
No, the stranger-woman did not murder me. She took me to a downtown market, fed me lunch, and then dropped me off at my dorm. I was a little less hydrated than when I’d left it, but still pretty much whole. And with a new-found hatred of busses and a renewed appreciation for church families. Also, a new catch-phrase: “I almost just DIED!” And if you don't think I use any and every opportunity to say that phrase, you don't know me at all.