I was waiting at the southbound 75 stop, 7537, at Northeast Sandy and 42nd Avenue on a gorgeous, sunny weekday morning. From around the corner, a frail old lady on a walker came into sight and shuffled up. She sat on the blue mesh metal seat, well-protected from the glaring beauty of the day by a hat, sunglasses and long sleeved sweater.
She gazed towards where the bus would come from. Then she turned towards me and asked, "Why do you think people become Christians?"
Why do people ask questions like this? That's the real puzzler. But my mind machine sorted automatically through responses for something both kind and truthful. Didn't want to offend an old lady.
"I don't know. I'm kind of a borderline Christian myself."
"To answer your question,I suppose most of them are born into it," I said. "I was. I was born a Catholic."
"That doesn't count," she snapped. "You have to accept Jesus as an adult."
I didn't know that rule. But, fine.
The old lady said, "The reason I'm a Christian is I don't want to go to hell."
Why, Grandma, why? The statement sailed past my frontal lobe, landing right on the "You're wrong, lady" trigger.
Still trying to respect my elder, instead of "You're wrong," I said very gently, "What makes you think there's a hell?"
"Well, just look at all this." She waved at the world. "Man didn't make all this."
"What's that got to do with hell?"
Beams of spiritual pity shot from her sunglasses at me.
"If there's a heaven, there must be a hell."
"Oh." Faith. Blind faith.
"Jesus spoke of heaven and hell in the Bible." Where else?
"I have to tell you, I'm not convinced."
She shook her head and seemed about to reply but at that instant the bus came. I trotted to a seat in the back where I could miss the rest of the conversation.
At Belmont and 42nd, I disembarked. So did the Christian lady.
We crossed 42nd on the same light, though I reached the other side first. Then we stood waiting for the next Belmont light together. She turned to me, eye beams undimmed.
"You really should accept Jesus into your heart."
What if she's right? What if I'm bound for Satan's sad, painful and eternal workhouse? It's possible, I guess, but the day -- this day God has made -- is too fine to dwell on something as remote as the hereafter.
"I've actually thought about it quite a bit."
"I'm sure you have," she said, and turned away.
The light changed. I won't say I skipped ahead, but I left her behind to do God's work on her own.