Sunday, May 02, 2010

BUS STORY # 182 (“I’m Free”: Tina’s Bus Story # 1)

I'm free, originally uploaded by tinamathis.

If the photo above looks familiar, it should. I used the same photo for last week's Bus Story.

I’d done a search, “bus, tattoos,” on Flickr which returned better than a thousand options. This was the one I settled on. These tattoos looked very much like the ones I’d seen on my co-rider in last week's story.

Interestingly, at the time, “I’m free” was untitled.

I emailed Tina and requested permission to use her photo.

Tina not only gave me permission, but in a series of email exchanges, she told me the story this gentleman told her, and she directed me to the other photos in this short series in her photostream.

What Tina has here is a first-rate bus story.

Shopping, originally uploaded by tinamathis.

Tina’s comment reads: “Turns out there'll be a long story of crime, drug abuse, repenting and salvation, in store for me...”

Tina met him at a bus stop. He’d just come from the grocery store after visiting his parents and was on his way back to the Salvation Army where he lived. He told Tina he’d spent 26 years in and out of the penitentiary – “hard time, not just jail.”

Then he found Jesus.

Now, he’s dedicated the rest of his life to serving others on Jesus’ behalf. At the time these photos were taken, he’d been arrest-free for six years.

Where's the bus, Gus?, originally uploaded by tinamathis.

Tina was impressed by a couple of things. First, he was remarkably articulate and well-spoken, something she would not have associated with his history of drug abuse. She writes he’s “[l]ucky . . . he didn't fry his brains with all the years he was on drugs.”

The other thing that impressed her was how very courteous he was – “much, much more than the average male busrider in this city -- towards me and others on the bus.”

Tina concluded “you cannot judge all books by their cover . . .”

When Tina first emailed back giving me permission to use her photo, she wrote: “Meanwhile I've given it the title "I'm free" which has more than the one, apparent meaning, namely what's stamped on one of the wristbands the man is wearing.”

I had completely missed the imprint on the yellow wristband. I’d been focused instead on the tattoos.

Tina has the story on those, too. They feature his two ex-wives “who, I must assume, must be free as well!”

“Freedom’s just another word,” writes Kris Kristofferson, “for nothing left to lose.” Sounds like Tina’s co-rider has found his way past that. He’s not the only one whose life is better for it. Ours are, too.

Thank you, Tina, for the story.


Tina has another set of photos titled “Riding the bus.” You can see them on Flickr at:


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