The Man on the Bus


by AJ Hall

The people were amazed at His teaching, because He [Jesus] taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”

Mark 1:22 

I sat down on the bus after a long day of classes. It was my first semester at the University of Florida and I hadn’t been sleeping well. My father was dying. And this harsh reality did not make adjusting to freshman year any easier. Drugs and alcohol whisked me away at night. But grief visited me again each day. I was really hurting. I think I might have smoked my weight in cigarettes that day, as I attempted to be a good student and stay for all my classes.

I had always been a hardcore partier, and extremely compulsive, but my current state of depression caused me to be over the top with my addictions.

The bus was crowded. People kept pouring in. I noticed a young African-American man sit down in the row in front of me. Psychologists say you size-up and form an opinion about someone within seconds of meeting them. For this guy, I thought he looked fairly cool—sort of a successful type dude, maybe somebody I could relate too. I don’t know why I remember thinking this. But he struck me as cool.

My initial impression of the man made what happened next all the more unbelievable. Moments into our bus ride, this guy turns around and looks at me. He looked a little nervous. He said,

“Hey man, I don’t normally do this. I am not trying to be weird or anything. But I feel like I need to tell you: ‘God loves you'”

Now, let me stop right here and say something: if you’re a Christian, you’ve probably heard that statement a thousand times. To you, “God loves you” might even seem played out. But these words were anything but cliche to me. I hadn’t grown up around Evangelical Christianity. I had never heard anything like that before. Nor had I ever heard somebody use “God talk” with such conviction.

There was something about this young man. Something genuine. More than his words, it was the way he said it—this intangible, yet very felt, dynamic behind his words. Like a power of some kind.

I imagine this is what the Bible is speaking about when it says…

The people were amazed at His teaching, because He [Jesus] taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”

Mark 1:22 


I was deeply impacted by the kindness shown to me by this young man. I’ve always been a pretty open book, so I quickly went into my dad’s situation. I told him all about the religious stuff my dad was experiencing. I told him how my family had been telling me all about it. And how I believed in God too. Then for some strange reason I blurted out:

“I know God loves me. And that’s why I think it’s no big deal to sin, you know? I mean God loves me, so I don’t think sin is that big of a deal.”

No joke. That’s what I said.

This young man was so gentle with me. He just smiled. And without skipping a beat, he said:

“Yea, God still loves you. But He doesn’t want you to sin, because sin keeps you apart from Him. And He wants you close.”

Mind-blown. I sat there speechless. What a revolutionary concept! I had never thought about it like that before: sin had a practical impact on my life. This was life-altering revelation!

My self-justification had fallen flat. Love had prevailed. I didn’t say another word.

Then the young man asked if he could pray for my dad and proceeded to pray—I had never heard anyone pray like this. He actually sounded like he was talking to somebody. It sounded like music to me—I was struck by the rhythm, and the way he referred to God as “Father God”.

Then it dawned on me: he was praying on a public bus. Not only that! A public bus packed with high-minded college students! This dude went from the unbelievable to the unthinkable.

I started to feel the looks. I could just imagine the other students sitting there rolling their eyes at this archaic display of mysticism, their “Da Vinci Code” books open in their laps.

As soon as he finished praying, the bus reached his stop. As he stood up to leave, I seriously considered whether or not this guy was an angel. I had seen enough movies to know that’s what angels do: when they’re done doing their thing, they stand up and leave all smooth like. And this guy sort of had a Denzel Washington thing going on…

Okay, so upon later consideration I’ve decided this guy most likely wasn’t an angel. He was probably just a fellow college student being obedient to God’s leading.

And that brings me to my point: This guy probably has no clue the level of impact his one act of kindness had on me. I mean I had quite an arrogant vibe back then! To him, I could of came off like I didn’t receive what he said! Little does he know he faithfully demonstrated the reality of God to me. He showed the care of Heaven for my dad. He probably doesn’t know days later I took that message to my dying father—it was my first sermon, as I shared about how God showed Himself through this boy on a bus. He doesn’t know my father’s awe and gleeful shock that a random person would ask to pray for him.

How could he know? Just one small act of kindness—just a little concern for a stranger, just a small act of obedience—could impact me so deeply that eventually one day I would leave my life of drugs, alcohol, and wild living. That this hard and haggard guy—the one reeking of cigarettes—would go on to give his life seeking to demonstrate and display the same love demonstrated to him.

So let me encourage you today: you have no idea what one act of kindness can do for somebody! And to the young man who spoke with me on a bus in Gainesville in 2003, if you ever happen to come across this article. I want you to know your act of kindness towards me was not in vain. God has used it more than you could ever know.

Now to Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.

Ephesians 3:20



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