While cleaning a bus
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
In a town awash with celebrity, Arthur Winston stands apart. His unlikely fame is unmatched in all of Los Angeles, which is his home. For that matter, it is very likely unmatched in all of America. No, not in terms of the brightness of his movie star power. He isn't one. But in terms of the distinctiveness of his accomplishment and the continuity of his service.
Yes, his celebrity status is largely confined to his local circle, a circle encompassing workers at the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) bus yard in downtown L.A. off 54th Street and Van Ness Avenue. Those workers, plus the patrons who ride the buses maintained at that yard, all know, or at least know of, Mr. Winston.
He cleans buses inside and out. He's been doing so for 70 years and counting. That's right. Mr. Winston first went to work in 1924, washing trolley cars. He left the job for a time but returned on Jan. 24, 1934, to work as a service attendant. He's been at it ever since.
During that entire time, the record shows, he's never been late for work, never left early. In fact, across those 70-plus years, he's amassed, while cleaning buses, an attendance record that must be second to none. Days missed: one. That single absence was in 1988, when his wife passed away. Now, at 97, he stands straight; walks slowly except when he breaks into a trot to clear out of the way of a 15-ton bus backing up; has a firm grip, a clear eye, and a sharp enough ear. He spends most of his working day on his feet, except when he's on his knees, scrubbing out a stain on the floor of one of his buses.
On Sundays he's likely to show up at any one of several nearby churches. And he's likely to be applauded when the congregation spots him, or the minister recognizes him. He is, remember, a local celebrity.
It's easy to think of Mr. Winston and then jump in thought to a passage from Job in the Bible: "And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning" (Job 11:17). It's not so easy to think of that passage from Job and then jump in thought to a better illustration of it than Mr. Winston.
Of course, every example of steadiness, of continuity of service, of uninterrupted healthy activity, helps most people glimpse something of their own potential. If one person can push the limits back so far, what about the rest of us? Can't we, too? Can't we lay claim to that promise from Job? It is divinely based. It is universal. It is within reach. It is not, however, without conditions. Part of what precedes the promise in Job reads: "If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.... yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear...."
So, there are a few things one can do to make the promise of noonday clarity more vivid for oneself and for others. Put away iniquity, ban wickedness, embrace steadfastness and fearlessness. And who can't do those things, at least a bit more than they're doing today?
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy compiled her own astonishing record not just of seamlessly steady productivity but also of remarkable diversity of accomplishment as a writer, teacher, speaker, healer, even administrator.
In her main work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she echoed Job's noonday metaphor when she wrote: "The radiant sun of virtue and truth coexists with being. Manhood is its eternal noon, undimmed by a declining sun."
And farther along she added: "Life is eternal. We should find this out, and begin the demonstration thereof" (Science and Health, page 246). As with Job, these are words of both demand and promise. They call for thought-by-thought discovery and demonstration of life's eternality.
But none of the demands is beyond reach. Perhaps the particulars of one's daily routine matter less. One might wash buses or write software. What matters more is the quality of one's thoughts and outlook and prayers. These can consistently move forward, tend Godward. The promise of a fuller, richer, steadier life then comes into view.