Crying With an Atheist at the Bus Stop

 Dropping off my uncle at a Greyhound bus station several years ago, I noticed a young woman in her early twenties. Actually, first, I noticed her hat. A cocky little round-brimmed black hat, she carried it off fabulously. Then I noticed her eyes.

She was sad, tears welling up, as she straddled her bags outside of the lobby. I respectfully tried to give her space and privacy, looking away deferentially. Minutes passed though and her tears became larger and soon she was sobbing. Alone, on the front pavement by the street, she cried.

That undid me. Walking over to her, I respectfully asked her if she was okay. The woman mumbled something, shook her head and wept some more. Leaning down on my knees, touching her hand, I asked her if I could hug her. She laughed, nodding, and cried some more as we hugged.

“Do you want to talk?” I asked, and we did for over an hour. My uncle’s bus had long since driven away. My two kids played patiently on the sloped sidewalk nearby, as traffic roared by a dozen yards away. And we talked.

There was a boy, and a mom, and the hospital, and treatment. Hard situations without easy fixes. I listened, asked questions, and listened some more. I shared too, and asked if I could pray with her right here in the parking lot.

“I’m an atheist,” she said. With respect and unchanged care, we spoke some more. I asked questions, she asked questions, and she asked me to, yes, please, pray for her and her friend in that situation. Humbly, joyfully, I did.

By now, my children had run out of things to do on a cement sidewalk and parking lot. Watching with serious eyes, though, they were patient as they heard us talking. I hugged my jaunty-hatted young friend again, and my kids and I drove away.

She emailed me later that week! We exchanged a few emails, asking respectful questions back and forth. “Thank you for your openness and kindness,” she wrote.

Our emails slacked off and it’s been years since we’ve talked now. She comes to mind now though and I pray for her, wondering how she is doing. 

Join me in my next post for one of the great questions she asked, and my humble stab at it.

What conversations stick in your brain? Who are you remembering and praying for right now?

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  1. Tina on January 16, 2012 at 1:02 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. cabinart on January 16, 2012 at 3:52 am

    Jennifer, you have fantastic titles, and the content never fails to measure up. What a story, what an experience. You were brave, kind, and generous, and this young woman had an up close and personal encounter with the God she says doesn't believe in. She won't forget you and she will come to know Him. I just know it!

  3. Jennifer Dougan on January 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm


    I emailed you a question too. Thank you for your comment here — I appreciate hearing what my reading friends are thinking about and doing too. I would love to hear more about this person's beliefs.

    I can relate to your feelings of wishing you had more profound earth-shaking things to say sometimes, yet resting in praying and knowing that God is big and good. I have conversations with very articulate and intelligent people in my life who don't believe in God. Sometimes I know the answers to their questions, but there are many times when I simply admit ignorance, and try to direct them to smarter people than me who will know. 🙂 I pray for them often and deeply though, praying they will see the Artist's joy and truth. May those flash out of my imperfect life too, for his glory.

    Eager to talk more, Tina,

  4. Jennifer Dougan on January 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm


    You are very kind and encouraging to me. 🙂 Thank you! Yes, I pray for her too, and some even closer friends and family of mine too. Do you have people in your life that you are aching for and praying for too? I'd be happy to pray with you for them this week, if you like.

    Do you have any more murals lined up? When is your next show?


  5. Glenda Parker Fiction Writer on January 16, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    What a great post. I love the fact that we can just love people and touch them in a mighty way. All we need is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. He knows who He needs to touch. It is such a privilege to reach out and touch others for Jesus. Thank you for sharing.

    Glenda Parker

  6. Jennifer Dougan on January 17, 2012 at 3:13 am

    Hi Glenda,

    "He knows who he needs to touch" –that's good.
    Hoping to follow his leading,

  7. Mommy Emily on January 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    i love this. the respect, the dignity you showed her, the way your kids were watching… what a powerful testimony friend. joining you in praying for her…

  8. Dolly@ Soul Stops on January 18, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    What a wonderful and generous gift you gave her by stopping to care, listen and pray…you loved her like Jesus…Beautiful! Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing….P.S. your kids were so great and patient 🙂

  9. Jennifer Dougan on January 19, 2012 at 4:01 am


    Thank you, friend. Thanks, especially for the prayer for her!


    Nice to meet you! Thanks for stopping by my site. Yes, I was so proud of my kids that day too. They were very kind and patient. We prayed as we drove home that day.


  10. AmyAlves on January 25, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Hi Jennifer, this is my first time finding your blog. What an amazing story you shared…you just never know what God is going to bring along our path! Thanks, Amy from

  11. Jennifer Dougan on January 26, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Hi AmyAlves,

    Nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by my site. I am eager to go browse yours after this.

    Yes, aren't these conversations and chances to get to know cool people that God made amazing? They stick in my mind for a while.

    Jennifer Dougan

  12. Pam on July 10, 2012 at 4:07 am

    I remember reading this post previously, but came back to it again after seeing your comment on Lolita's blog. This such a beautiful story of how God weaves our lives together, even for a moment. And it reminds me of a scene in a beautiful book I read by Francine Rivers last year… I think it was in the second of a series based on womens lives from early in the last century to about the 1970's. In the scene, a young girl who had abandoned faith, become a drugged out hippie and lost so much of herself met a woman like you who set her life on a redeemed course in that one moment, more than the woman ever knew. Only God knows the fruit that has come from your encounter. So moving…

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