In August of 1998, boarding a Greyhound bus heading from Boulder to Denver, I noticed a young black woman standing in line. I'd been in Aspen, and she was the first black person I had seen in a week. As we climbed on, she noticed the silver bracelet I was wearing.
"I like your bracelet," she said.
"Thanks. I bought it in Mexico recently," I explained.
She told me that this thin silver chain was just the type of bracelet she'd been looking for. I offered to give her mine.
"Oh, no, I couldn't" was her immediate response.
"It's okay," I reassured her. "It wasn't expensive."
"Maybe I can buy it from you," she suggested.
"Look," I said, "what would be more fun — buying a bracelet from a total stranger or receiving a gift from a total stranger?"
She admitted that the gift would be much better. I took the bracelet off my wrist and put it on hers. It looked great. We found seats, one behind the other, and there was no more conversation. Leaving the bus, the young woman handed me a piece of notebook paper folded several times into a neat square. I thanked her and stuck it in my back pocket. A few hours later I remembered the paper and read it. In pencil she had written:
Today was an important day for me. You see, I am going out into the world without the protection of my family to see what it is like. Soon I will be going off to college, and today I am trying out being on my own away from home. Thank you so much for being the first person I was to meet.
I have her note framed on my wall. One of my favorite possessions. Perhaps I was born to welcome that young woman into the world of strangers. I may have been sent to Denver that day not to see my sister but to meet that one person on the bus. I'll never know. But from that meeting on, I was clear that the best way for me to live is to treat every event, each stranger, as a potential opportunity to act as an agent of the divine.