He walked her to her front door at, groceries in tow, looked at his watch and said with a smile, “Well, it looks like our time is up for this week! I’d love to help you with these, but you know protocol….” His voice trailed as he walked away.
Jean looked at the pile of grocery bags, sighed, and waved good-bye to her companion assistant who helped her twice each week with simple chores that she simply could no longer do on her own. She was only 53 years old, but her medical dilemmas caused her continuously agonizing pain and the weakness of a small child. These issues slowly intruded her daily life years before, but she never imagined the debilitation it would ultimately cause her.
Jean was a prominent business woman before the medical issues overtook her life. Since her childhood she knew she was different. She was never good at sports, and at a young age would become exhausted sooner than the other children. He pediatrician informed her parents and her of her future decline. The thing that her pediatrician did not inform her of was along with the physical ailments; she would lose trusted friends and loved ones. Her family would eventually leave her due to the burden that she became.
Jean was alone. She had Phil, her 23 year old companion assistant, who was in fact, the same age as her daughter and two years younger than her son. She took herself on brief walks around her neighborhood when she had the strength, but that was random and rare. She had special transportation to her church each week, but again she felt as though she posed a burden to her fellow church members, so never asked for assistance.
On Sunday morning, Jean waited for her special transportation bus to arrive. She noticed that today her typical driver, Saul, was late. This was unlike him. Saul was usually early and waiting for her! She looked at her watch and noticed that he was only five minutes late. She figured this was no big deal. She sighed, and then she heard the bus rumble into her driveway. She smiled discreetly.
Jean opened her front door with a smile and blurted with a sparkle in her eyes, “This is a new surprise, Saul….” She looked at the new driver standing on her doorstep. He looked to be a kindly, narrowed framed, man in his early 30’s. He had light brown shoulder length hair, pulled in a ponytail under his bus driver’s cap, and a neatly trimmed beard and mustache. Surprised she exclaimed, “Oh! I’m sorry, sir!”
The new bus driver apologized, “I’m sorry for my tardiness Ms. Tucker.” He glanced at his watch and continued, “I believe we shall arrive to your church in plenty of time. This is my first day on the job, so headquarters gave me a small number of riders today. Shall we be going?” He held his hand out to assist her to the bus.
Jean grabbed the driver’s hand and smiled hesitantly. “Where is Saul today, uh…?”
“He has the next two weeks off. He’s on a family vacation. And my name is Sal.”
“Oh that’s right! He’s been talking about the vacation for the past two months. My, how time has flown by!” She smiled, glad that her Sunday driver was finally on his anticipated vacation.
“Jean, I don’t mean to be intrusive, but after I drop you off at church, I don’t have another rider until I pick you up. May I attend your church service with you? Maybe you can introduce me to some of your friends.”
Jean’s face scrunched warily. She hesitated to answer as she boarded the bus.
Sal smiled saying, “No pressure, Jean.” He began driving.
When the two arrived at the church Sal assisted Jean to the front door of her church.
Jean looked at Sal and said, “Sal, I’d enjoy some company at church. I don’t have anyone to introduce you to because there’s something about me that people don’t like.” She shuddered embarrassed at her disclosure.
“That’s okay, Jean. I’ll park my bus and meet you in the church foyer.”
When Sal entered the church he found Jean sitting alone in a church pew. When he sat next to her the parishioners stared. Sal and Jean worshiped together as though nobody else were present.
After the service ended Sal and Jean walked back to the bus smiling and aglow. “Sal, thank you for attending the service with me,” Jean exclaimed. “I haven’t felt so spiritually filled in ages.”
“I’m glad you felt the Holy Spirit, Jean.”
“I don’t know what was different, other than having a companion who actually wanted to socialize with me. I even feel like I have an extra bounce in my step!” Jean appeared to be in less pain than usual after her church’s service. This was unusual.
The next week, Sal attended with Jean again. This time she entered the church with him, radiant, approachable. Parishioners greeted her gladly, saying that she seemed in a positive mood. After the service, one of the ladies even invited her to the women’s weekly after church dessert.
Jean looked at Sal, as though worried she would be abandoning her fare home – her friend.
“You go ahead with them, Jean. It seems my work here is done. Please be sure to express my gratitude to Saul for recommending that I take you to church. I believe you have found true companions within these walls.