Gift of the three wise men

Sally Brown steps over deep drifts in downtown Portland, an image that made the February 2, 1937 front page of The Morning Oregonian.

Sally Brown steps over deep drifts in downtown Portland, an image that made the February 2, 1937 front page of The Morning Oregonian.

By Andrea Cano

Summer 2015 has been a real scorcher in Portland. Those 90-plus degree days have wilted the hardiest offerings of my vegetable garden. My string beans came and went. The beet seedlings never had a chance. But the hardy golden cherry tomatoes continue to flourish.

I thought about the coldest day I experienced this year. Well, maybe close to the end of 2014 – that elusive winter that anchored in for about 48 hours.

Weather reports had us scurrying and preparing for the snow and ice storm of the century. The day before it had layered a little dusting and iced over some in the greater Portland metro region. No way was my 1996 Camry reliable enough, even with chains, to get me to work in Vancouver – a mere 15 minutes door to door over the Interstate Bridge. A bus ride or two was the only option.

Winter 2014: Andrea Cano on the bus.

Winter 2014: Andrea Cano on the bus.

With the help of TriMet’s route tracking, I plotted my travel. To arrive by 10:30 am to start my shift as a hospital chaplain, I had to leave my home around 8 am or so. I also plotted what I needed to do to get home that eve. What an adventure.

I dressed for the weather, warm socks, snow boots, layered clothes, jacket and a knit cap. I don’t own all of those name-brand winter jackets, hats, gloves and things. Just stuff that hangs in the back of my closet – patiently waiting to be called into occasional service. Stuff that has kept me comfortable throughout the years. I even took what I believe was my first selfie.

I packed all my work clothes, vanity stuff like make-up and hair care items, into a well-used carry-on suitcase. Who knows what terrain – asphalt, gravel, slush, ice – those tenuous little wheels would have to navigate.

Well into the second bus transfer, I was sitting at the front of the bus – in the senior section, of course – musing about the ways the other passengers and I had prepared for the winter onslaught. The three men seated around me begin to share how they planned to spend the day.

It seemed they would be bus-hopping to stay out of the cold. They suggested I do the same.

“You know, you can also get a free cup of coffee near the next stop,” one man advised.

“Yeah, and if you wait until about 11 you can also get a sandwich,” added another in a very soiled leather jacket.

Spring 2015: Andrea Cano, all thawed out.

Spring 2015: Andrea Cano, all thawed out.

They went on to talk about getting dinner and told me about that too. I just about cried. A trio of men whose lives had converged on that bus that morning, figuring out how to get through the day and generously sharing their resources with each other and with me, was a glorious gift.

As they got off the stop before my last, we exchanged goodbyes and wishes for a good day. They certainly had assured one for me that chilly winter morning.

Andrea Cano starts her new chaplaincy service Sept. 15 at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, splitting her time between the hospital and OASIS, an innovative community-based palliative care project. A social justice activist and former journalist, she is the only board-certified Spanish-speaking Latina chaplain in Oregon.


Editor’s note: Andrea is one of those exceptionally well-rounded persons who seems to be involved in everything. In addition to the above, she is an ordained minister, a former chair of the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs and a foodie. Read more about her in this 2013 profile by El Hispanic News.

Tomorrow: “Too much white” by Jacob Quinn Sanders


4 thoughts on “Gift of the three wise men

  1. I continue to be amazed by you, Andrea. I’m impressed with your traveling companion’s generosity. Bus riding is not always very fun (and is slow), but can often be a revelation.

  2. Wise men indeed, Andrea! And a wise woman to hear these guys and feel a glimpse of what they lived.
    The visual of the three wise men on Tri-Met will now accompany every story I read about the commuter option. Thank you!

  3. Andrea – You have more grace than just about anyone I’ve known. This is evidenced, again, by your observations that you so eloquently shared here with us. I love seeing these little snapshots during the day that too many others may miss or take for granted. It’s good to be present. Thank you.

  4. I agree with John and Elizabeth. Public transport removes us from the isolation we typically impose upon ourselves by driving solo everywhere. What a nice way to reconnect…

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