Wednesday, July 30, 2008

For granted

The front seat was open when I boarded the bus one day last week, so I sat in it. As I settled in to watch the comings and goings of fellow commuters for the 20-minute ride to work, a modest sign affixed to the window caught my eye.

"This seat dedicated to Rosa Parks, 1913-2005," it read. That's all - and for me, that was plenty.

To be honest, I almost moved to another seat. I felt unworthy of sitting there. I'd just plopped down because it was available, with nary a thought about how not that long ago, the seat that welcomed me would not have been open to others.

As other passengers embarked, I wondered how the seating would be apportioned if our travels had been 50 years ago. A man in a business suit who took the seat next to me a few stops later, speaking Spanish into a BlackBerry phone, would surely have been sent elsewhere. The tall blonde could have stayed up front with me, as could an eager red-headed fellow with a backpack. It's clear where the black woman across the aisle would have been relegated, but I'm not sure which block of seats the two young Asian women, or the man I guessed to be from India, would have been assigned. Or who would have monitored and enforced such a pointless seating chart.

We've got our fair share of problems today, of course. The opportunities I'm granted, and take for granted, still aren't necessarily accessible to all, and in their own way these times are as just as troubled as Rosa's.

But today, someone who doesn't look like me has the unchallenged choice to sit in that seat dedicated to the woman who helped make that choice possible. As I try to live more in the moment, I'm sure glad it's this moment, not that one.

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