Sunday, January 3, 2010


“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." – Matthew 1: 22-23

I got a late start to my morning one day a couple weeks ago and found myself rushing out of the door to catch the Culver City 1 bus to catch my usual Commuter Express 437 bus downtown to work. This endeavor was made all the more difficult since I was on crutches at the time due to a broken ankle. So there I was, crutchin my heart out, only to watch the Culver City bus roll past me. I tried to flag the driver down with my left crutch. The bus driver just waved back.


Ok, plan B.

So I furiously crutched up the street to the bus stop on Venice and Motor where I catch the Metro Local 333. The Metro bus and the Commuter express couldn’t be more different. The CE is all nice with plush comfortable seats, ample leg room, and business professionals looking to save some gas money on their way to work. The Metro bus has hard plastic seats with a thin layer of felt as cushion, minimal leg room, graffiti scratched windows and a clientele that is not exactly dressed business casual.

There is one thing that the Metro has over the CE though. It is always on time.

So there in lies the reason for the furious crutching. I have two minutes to get from Motor and Washington to Motor and Venice with one good leg, two cumbersome crutches and a hope and a dream. I found myself praying on the way: “God PLEASE let me catch this bus” but I had only gone half of the block before I saw it, in all of its orange glory, crossing Motor to pick up the folk waiting at the stop.


So by the time I make it the rest of the way up the block the bus is long gone and there is a lone figure standing at the stop. He is a latino man in his mid to late thirties of about five foot nine wearing a blue hoodie with khaki cargo pants and off brand cross trainers. He stood at the stop waiting with a white styrofoam cup and straw in hand; the kind you get when you order a soda at a Mexican take out joint. After I arrived, disheveled and spent, I sat down in a heap, leaned my crutches against the side of the bus stop and caught my breath. Finally settled, I looked at him and nodded hello.

He greeted me in kind and introduced himself.

“My name is Immanuel, Immanuel Luna but people call me Manny” he said with a hint of alcohol on his breath. “What kind of name is that?” he continued. “I mean one of the names is enough, but both names Immanuel and Luna? Maybe it means that God loves me. Do you know what Immanuel means?”

“Yes I do” I said. “It means God is with us.”

“Yeah that’s right. I think God is with me.”

He went on to tell me about his life. He works several odd jobs all over Los Angeles as a printer. He is the guy who prints the covers for DVDs. Just as he was telling me this a woman made a turn in front of the bus stop and waved and honked at him. He waved back and shouted hello.

“I know her, she offered to give me a ride to work today but I like to do things on my own ya know. I’m my own man. I can get myself to work. But she is a nice woman. That’s how Catholic women are.”

Then he went on to tell me about how there were these two young women at the laundromat up the street that he had a huge crush on.

“But they treat me like I’m their uncle. That’s ok I like that.” He said. “They are good catholic girls too, never had boyfriends either of them. That’s why I love catholic girls. They always treat you nice, they always want to help you. But I can do for myself you know. All I want is to have my own place; a one bedroom apartment with hardwood floors and a nice TV and one of those small refrigerators filled will beer. That’s it man. Once I get that I’ll be happy.”

I listened. It was so wonderfully simple. He made me think of all that I had and all that I still want.

“Yeah man” is all I could offer.

I was saved from my dumbfounded silence when he hollered across the street at someone. I turned to look in that direction and saw a homeless man. He seemed to be in his fifties or so, with a long beard, matted hair, and equally tattered attire. He had a flustered hopelessness smeared across his face.

“He’s been on the street for a long time man” Manny said to me at I stared. “He has three daughters and they drive down here in their BMWs begging him to come home with them. But he won’t. I wonder why he won’t just go home? Too proud I guess. I try to help him out when I can.”

“Hurry up!” Manny yelled across the street. “I have some money for you but the bus is coming. If you hurry up I can give it to you.”

I looked at Manny and saw a five dollar bill in his hand. “Damn, Manny is struggling and he’s going to give him that much? Man, that’s really generous,” I thought to myself. Then I looked across the street at the man and from him to the street and saw the bus there waiting at the red light.

It was the 333, our bus.

The homeless man too looked at the bus, and then he looked across the street at us; longingly. I was rooting for him. I was hoping, praying that he would hurry across the street and get this money from Manny. I was hoping that he would watch for the oncoming traffic and jaywalk his way over to us so that he could eat that morning. But he stood there at the curb, frozen. He didn’t move an inch.

The light turned green and the bus came and the man looked down dejectedly at his worn out shoes.

“I’ll be here later this afternoon!” Manny hollered out as the bus arrived. “I’ll be back here, come back!”

I believed him.

The bus stopped in front of us and we got on. Many made his way back through the packed bus and squeezed himself into one of the few remaining seats. I sat down in the handicapped section with my crutches standing between my legs in front of me thinking about all that I had just seen. I thought about Manny, his name, his story, his hope for the future, his generosity. I also thought about the homeless man and catholic women and pride.

In what seemed like moments we arrived at Manny’s stop. He stood up and started walking toward the exit door in the back of the bus. And as he reached the door he looked back in my direction.

“Hey Manny, it was nice to meet you, have a great day.” I said to him over the abundant silence of the other riders.

“It was nice to meet you too” he said.

He hesitated thoughtfully. The door remained open and the bus remained stopped waiting for him to exit.

“Hey, did you know that dreams still come true?”

I had no idea how to respond, partially because of the setting, partially because the bus was waiting for us to finish our conversation, but also because I didn’t know the answer to the question.

“Yes” I said feebly.

“It’s true, dreams do come true. You just gotta work hard to go get em.”

I smiled.

He returned my smile and waved, and then made his way off the bus.

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A Convo With God by Clarence Mitchell III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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