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.