As a freshman at Ohio State, I was determined to figure the place out on my own. Early during my first quarter I decided I wanted to go to church. Not one of the campus ministries that I could have walked to or gone to with my friends. A community church with non-college age congregants. What’s a girl without a car to do in a metro area like Columbus in the age before Uber? Take the bus.
The day before my church excursion, I figured out where there was a United Church of Christ and compared that to the COTA (Central Ohio Transit Authority) bus route. Sunday came and I put on my church clothes and made my way to the bus stop. The bus approached and I was confident that in less than 30 minutes, I was going to be in the sanctuary. I was watching the streets and stops as best as I could. I was used to country roads set at square mile distances in Republic, Ohio, which threw my sense of direction off. On country roads, you can zig-zag your way back if you go too far. Not an option on the COTA bus. Time passed. I didn’t see the streets I was looking for. More time passed. By then, I realized I probably wasn’t going to church that day.
Finally, the bus driver made it to the end of his route and I was the only passenger left. He asked me if I was okay and if I needed anything – it was time for his break. I told him as calmly as possible that I was fine. When he left the bus, I freaked out for a moment – I had no clue where I was. Then a calm came over me because I realized just as what comes up must come down, that the bus would make a loop and bring me back to campus.
I spent the last half of the bus ride writing on a small piece of paper I had in my purse. It might have been a gum wrapper for all my memory serves. I don’t remember the exact words, but on that paper I gave myself motivation and encouragement that even if the path I go down doesn’t take me where I want to go, that I would make the most of the situation. In my case, I spent the return trip to campus watching people, looking at the scenery, and having faith that I was going to be fine on this large campus. I might not have made it to church that day, but I had my faith tested. I kept that small piece of paper in my wallet for the next four years as a reminder of my bus ride.
Small Town Leadership lesson: Your intended destination can often lead you down an unintended path. Appreciate and soak in the journey. There was a reason for me to get on – and stay on – the bus that day. A secondary lesson from this experience was that it is okay to ask for help. I had it in my mind that I couldn’t trust “big city” people in the same way as those from my small town. Later that year, after I got to know the bus drivers who took me to and from downtown Columbus to my internship, I realized I could have avoided riding the entire bus route if I had told the driver where I wanted to go when I got on that day in the fall. People are generally willing to look out for one another – you simply have to be brave enough to ask for help. That bus ride taught me that I didn’t have to face the large campus and city by myself. People were just as helpful in Columbus as they were in Republic, Ohio.