The bus bumped along the dry, dirt road kicking up a billowy cloud behind it. The bus driver was an older woman with strong hands and kind eyes. She didn't say much as she drove that big yellow bus, but she had a quick and kind smile that made the passengers feel comfortable and at ease.
They sat nervously in their seats, silently eyeing the rest of the passengers who they did not know; trying to get some idea about the people they would be sharing this experience with. Some stared out the window, watching the scenery as it silently tumbled by. Others timidly started conversations with their neighbors, asking where they were from, and if they were nervous, too.
All of them had been expecting this trip. Some had known it was coming for quite some time. Others were surprised that it crept up on them as quickly as it did. None of them had ever been there before, so none of them knew quite what to expect. And this made them nervous.
The anxiety in the bus rose to a new level the minute the bus veered off of the main road and onto a smaller trail, passing through a wooden gateway that arched overhead. What little conversation there had been was now silenced as each passenger was straining to see out the window, to get some idea of what this place looked like; what kind of things they'd be able to do while they were here.
Light shone through the leaves of the trees, giving the air an ethereal golden-green glow. The bus trudged along this tree lined path for what seemed quite a while. The passengers were getting more nervous, sitting on the edge of the seats; craning their necks to get a view out of the windshield, to see if they could catch a glimpse of buildings or something that would let them know they were getting close.
And then suddenly the tree line opened up. The light, no longer blocked by trees and leaves, seemed so fresh and golden. There arose an excited murmuring on the bus. The passengers were excited to get off, to stretch their legs, and to see what it would be like outside. The bus driver slowly pulled the bus to a stop. She rose to her feet and turned to look at the group of nervous passengers. With a kind smile she opened the doors to the bus and said, "We're here!"
There was a mad rush for the door. The passengers quickly rushed down the aisle, down the steps and out into the warm sun. As they spilled out of the bus, the passengers were greeted by a group of welcomers that seemed even more excited and happy than they were. The greeters were smiling and waving, overflowing with enthusiasm and offers to help.
At first, the passengers were a little overwhelmed by this welcoming committee, this group of unfamiliar people who were so excited that they were finally there. The passengers hung back close to the bus. But the more they looked at this group of welcomers, the more comfortable they were becoming. Then, suddenly and without warning, one of the passengers shrieked, "GRANDPA!" she broke from the group of passengers and into the waiting arms of one of the greeters. Then another passenger yelled, "MOM!" and rushed forward into her loving embrace. And then the air was full of laughter and crying and yelling. People were rushing into the arms of their loved ones who they had not seen for some time. At first they had not recognized them in this place, there was something different about them. Something better.
Those who had been sick were now glowing with health. Those who had been broken were now completely whole. Those who had been distant were now wonderfully close. In the warmth of the sun, all past hurts were forgotten and there was only excitement and forgiveness and love.
And watching it all was the bus driver with the strong hands and the kind eyes. She stood on the ground outside of the bus, watching this wonderful homecoming, with a wise and gentle grin playing across her lips.