Why I ride Greyhound

I ride the bus a lot.  I ride Greyhound a lot.  My rides have ranged over the years from 9 hours to 4 days on a bus.  Mostly recently this summer, I rode Greyhound from New Orleans to my home in New Mexico and then back again, about a 30 hour trip. It had been a little while, and I was reminded exactly why it had been a while, but also why Greyhound should remain a regular habit of mine.

In the “Statutes on the Religious Poverty in the Society of Jesus” published in 2003, Jesuits are told that “the standard living of our houses should not be higher than that of a family of slender means whose earning members must world hard for its support.”  Of course, leave it to Jesuits to decide what “slender” means, and nothing will ever get done.   But one thing I realized in prayer was that prior to entering the Society of Jesus, I had to take Greyhound to college in Ohio out of necessity.  I couldn’t afford to fly at the time.  My poverty then was of the involuntary kind. Since entering the Jesuits, the luxury has been granted to me to fly wherever I need to go.  And sometimes this is necessary for time restraint reasons.  But there seemed to me to be a problem with being able to afford something after taking a vow of poverty that I could not afford before I took it.  Yet this is precisely the paradox of voluntary poverty: because it is voluntary, true choices must be made to maintain that “firm wall of religious wall” that Ignatius loved so dearly.  The joy comes from making the choice, to be with Jesus and with his poor.  The joy comes in choosing Greyhound rather than simply being forced.

And the choice means joy, don’t get me wrong.   There is nothing funnier (at times) then a Greyhound station.  Yes, I’ve seen fights.  In the Dallas station on my way to Grand Coteau to enter the Jesuits, the two young men right in front of me in line got into a punching match and one of them bled from his head all over the floor.  As he went down in a pool of blood, the change from his pockets sprayed in all directions. Hoping to remain as inconspicuous as possible, I picked up his change and handed it to him after security broke up the fight.  But other than that fight, Greyhound stations are for the most part the best theaters of America’s low income citizens, i.e., Christ’s favorites.  Trash bags stuffed with clothes are stacked in corners where people jostle to maintain position in line.  Babies scream and people stretch out on the floor to snatch some sleep. It is so far apart from taking a plane that unless you have done it, you can’t understand what I’m talking about.

I recommend it for the pleasant company as well.  I once sat next to a man on my way to New Orleans who claimed that he was going to marry Jesus in the Superdome.  Between explaining this marriage to me, he would put me on pause to communicate telepathically with the president of Colombia from whom he was buying the country for 30 billion dollars.  Apparently Jesus was going to descend into the Superdome for this marriage amidst a packed crowd of well-wishers as soon as this guy had arrived.  Every now and then, I would move aside so that he could stand up and go to the bathroom to — we all assumed — snort a line of coke.  He came back more hyper every time.  We would all laugh out heads off while he was away and then sober up when he got back to hear more of his nuptial plans.

So I recommend that you find some way to associate with Christ’s favorites. Greyhound now and then is a great way.  Any other suggestions are more than welcome.


8 Responses to Why I ride Greyhound

  1. Henry says:

    Great post. I can really relate because I’ve also taken the bus to various places. I don’t know if you’ve ever done it, but speaking with some of the people that ride the NYC subway can be just as interesting as “superdome” guy! Suggestions: working with the CFRs and/or the Missionarys of Charity – both have homeless shelters and/or work with the poor.

    Pax Christi,


  2. I have stayed and worked with the CFR’s in the Bronx. I have spent the night with the Missionaries of Charity in the South Bronx at the homeless shelter. And I have ridden the subway in clerics in New York City and been called all manner of things, usually related to an assumed preference for boys. As you indicate, all interesting experiences and chances to share in the humility of Christ!

    • Henry says:

      LOL – that’s for sure! It’s not just the clerics, I usually get a crew cut for the summer and it’s a “comments” magnet too!

  3. Marc says:

    As soon as I saw the headline, “Why I ride Greyhound,” I knew you wrote it without seeing the name. Good article.

  4. Paul Harris says:

    Back in 1977 when I was 21 I had a Greyhound bus pass that allowed me to go anywhere I wanted for 1 or 2 months. I kept a journal which included many such descriptions of the people I met. I still remember “Nellie Nervous”. Anyway that journal is my most prized possession. I too took it to New Orleans for my first time. I returned in 2005 as well and ended up being stuck in the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. Believe me I wish Jesus had been in there with me than. 😉

    Paul Harris
    Author, “Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina”

  5. Father Joseph Leppard says:

    Great Post .. .of course in the early days we had the train which also is not in vogue in most of the country except in the Northeast Corridor and California. In the early days, you could have the same experience on the train because it was also less expensive.

    At one time the saying was about clerics was “you take the vow of poverty, and we practice it”. We meaning the laity and those in low income brackets. Unfortunately, I am not too sure we clerics and religious are always models of “blessed are the poor in spirit”.

    There are many religious houses and rectories in this country that reek with luxurious items that are of no need. Expensive automobiles, the best food, the best liquor and beer money can buy and now, the latest in all the technologies out there.

    Today, the applications for jobless rates is up 479,000. So, your post is right on target. But, if I may add with tongue in cheek, you can also see some of the same families in our airports who are struggling.

    So, a great reminder to us all that the first Beatitude is still around: Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Good school year to you!

  6. Kathie says:

    Very enjoyable to read and a thanks to Fr. Joseph for the link to this. I was thinking about taking the bus hoping it had improved since the 60’s. Oh no no no, as a woman, I’m not sure I dare take one alone. :-O I’m with Father Joseph on the good old days with trains….that was safe as well as interesting. Having worked in a nursing home and taken care of both parents in my home in their last 4 years of life, might I suggest that nursing homes is a special place, also, to visit the poor. They are financially poor but who is more poor than those who are left unloved and warehoused in our society. Onward Jesuits in keeping the Faith in line with Holy Mother Church and know my prayers are with you and all clergy.

  7. Jay Hooks says:

    I’m with you on the benefits of opting for Greyhound. Plenty of interesting folks, and opting for the humbler means of transport is often good for souls both bound and unbound by vows of religious poverty. I’ve also seen some impressive acts of charity between perfect strangers: blankets and food shared, babies watched, tickets bought for the guy who lost his wallet. Who knew I’d be evangelized on the road to Opelousas??

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