In Vanishing Grace I describe people I call grace-dispensers. You don’t have to be a professional, or educated, or especially skilled, to be a good grace-dispenser. A new book by John Ortberg, the pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, tells of an ordinary woman in San Francisco who makes an extraordinary dispenser of grace. I’ll let John tell this story as a guest columnist:
… There was a front-page article in the San Francisco Chronicle about a metro-transit operator named Linda Wilson-Allen. She loves the people who ride her bus. She knows the regulars. She learns their names. She will wait for them if they’re late and then make up the time later on her route.
A woman in her eighties named Ivy had some heavy grocery bags and was struggling with them. So Linda got out of her bus driver’s seat to carry Ivy’s grocery bags onto the bus. Now Ivy lets other buses pass her stop so she can ride on Linda’s bus.
Linda saw a woman named Tanya in a bus shelter. She could tell Tanya was new to the area. She could tell she was lost. It was almost Thanksgiving, so Linda said to Tanya, “You’re out here all by yourself. You don’t know anybody. Come on over for Thanksgiving and kick it with me and the kids.” Now they’re friends.
The reporter who wrote the article rides Linda’s bus every day. He said Linda has built such a little community of blessing on that bus that passengers offer Linda the use of their vacation homes. They bring her potted plants and floral bouquets. When people found out she likes to wear scarves to accessorize her uniforms, they started giving them as presents to Linda. …
Think about what a thankless task driving a bus can look like in our world: cranky passengers, engine breakdowns, traffic jams, gum on the seats. You ask yourself, How does she have this attitude? “Her mood is set at 2:30 a.m. when she gets down on her knees to pray for 30 minutes,” the Chronicle states. “‘There is a lot to talk about with the Lord,’ says Wilson-Allen, a member of Glad Tidings Church in Hayward.”
When she gets to the end of her line, she always says, “That’s all. I love you. Take care.” Have you ever had a bus driver tell you, “I love you”? People wonder, Where can I find the Kingdom of God? I will tell you where. You can find it on the #45 bus riding through San Francisco. People wonder, Where can I find the church? I will tell you. Behind the wheel of a metro transit vehicle.
We invited Linda to speak at our church. People with all kinds of Silicon Valley dreams were inspired to standing ovations by a woman who drives a bus. They stood in line by the dozens afterward to talk with her. For the door on the #45 bus opens into the Kingdom of God.
John Ortberg, All the Places to Go (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015), pp. 70-72.