I sat at the table. The paper placard in front of me had my name printed on it to remind people of who I am.  For about four terms, I’ve served either as an alternate or a member of a local coordinating board for transportation in our county.  I have, in fact, sat through multiple meetings like this one in three different counties in Florida.

While I serve as a citizen advocate on this board, the issues that face us are more complex than I ever imagined when I first started to attending them.  Of course, I sat dazed by the acronyms and double speak that swirled around me for the first couple of months; but I assured myself that if I continued to attend, I would gradually begin to understand what was being discussed.

Then I applied to serve as an alternate.  After being in that position for about four years, I once again assured myself that I’d soon understand everything there was to know about transportation in our county.  When the fog cleared a bit and a position on the board opened, I applied.

Unfortunately, as soon as I was seated on the board, the federal and state legislation changed drastically and I was back to square one.  I found myself flipping through the pages sent to me before each meeting wishing I could decipher the complex verbage on which I was supposed to vote.  With every new administration, there are new laws and regulations that the local boards are supposed to miraculously comprehend.

Yet, in the past few years, I find myself understanding the discussions that swirl around my head.  No longer does the talk whiz over my head, it is now filtered through knowledge and history.  In fact, at a recent committee meeting, I found that I became the historian of the group, having served longer than anyone else.  My mind recalled facts and figures that surprised me.

At times, citizens are reluctant to become a part of the process because the issues are simply too complex.  And that is usually true at the beginning.  Even after years, of study and research, administrations and local issues change as well as the laws.  Then the learning process begins again…and again…and again.

Isn’t that like our lives, however?  As soon as I thought I had my husband all figured out, the Lord would do something different and I would be left scratching my head, wondering why he had changed.  Even in my own life, I wake up and find that during the night the Lord supernaturally answered a prayer and transformed my heart.  Or I read a book and God begins to speak to me about fears and concerns that have plagued my spirit since childhood, he makes my spirit responsive to his love and the Holy Spirit does a fresh work.

Different from the complex issues that we face with governance, God’s transformations are usually simple changes that transform our behaviors, attitudes and desires.  Paul was correct when he wrote to the Romans that laws and regulations cannot make transformational changes.  That is God’s job.

Riding the bus is as much a part of the culture of the mentally challenged community, as struggling to read.  In our Central Florida county, parents sometimes complain about the long bus trips that our population must take each day to get to and from work.  Often, parents will opt to transport their children to doctor’s appointments and Rec Department events, rather than teaching them the intricate maneuvering required to learn the route schedules.  The professional community has never caught the vision of teaching people who are mentally challenged how to figure out the schedules.  Transporting them in private vehicles seems easier. 

Yet, I seldom hear the same complaint from Special Gathering members and my other friends.  When Diana developed the skills needed to ride the bus to work and to her appointments after her mother died, she gained a new sense of independence.  She and her close friend, Mimi, often ride the bus together to go to lunch and to the shopping center.

Because of the complexity of the geography of the county, bus routes can be complicated and hard to understand.  Therefore, there are not as many bus people who live in our county, except a few scattered homeless individuals.  Bus people are folks who ride the bus everyday for fun and entertainment.  

A good friend of mine has a daughter who is in her mid-thirties.  She is mentally challenged and bipolar.  She lives in South Florida where there are many bus routes.

This young woman boards the bus early everyday and rides all day long.  She gave up employment years ago because she doesn’t like the tedium of the day programs.  The erratic behavior caused by her bipolar symptoms, makes it hard for her to understand the logic required to be able to submit to authority.  For that reason, she hasn’t succeeded in working in the community.  Therefore, she finds that riding the bus everyday, fills her time in a meaningful way.

Perhaps one of the best things the professional community could do within our cloistered, sub-culture is bus training.  Teaching individuals who are developmentally disabled to ride the bus to doctor’s appointments and to the shopping mall should be an intricate part of the skill sets needed for survival. 

Part of my desire is to get a grant that can be used to teach people how to ride the bus in our county.  It will mean educating parents and professionals first but it would be worth the effort.   As the cost of gas continues to climb, riding the bus may become a necessary skill set that we cannot afford to be without.  

Does anyone know of a grant that teaches people to access public transportation?