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By Jim Wiltbank

I don’t know why I was late… probably talking to Raul and Jack. We had run our high school cross-country and track races against each other almost every week for the last three years and knew each other well. But when my friend Isaac came running up and spoke the fateful words, I knew I was in trouble – “Why aren’t you on the bus already?” The coach had called the team together and as the captain of the team, I should have been the example for my teammates…and yet here I was…missing the bus.

Because of that day, I’ve tried to be aware of when people were calling me to “get on the bus.” So a few years later when my friend Pat invited me to join the early Phoenix Martin Luther King marches, I said “yes” even though I lived at the time in an area of Arizona that had very few black people and I knew relatively little about civil rights issues.

A few years later I happily walked with a half-million or so Arizona Hispanics through the streets of our State’s Capitol because many of my students and their families were in that march and I cared deeply about their future.

Yet in one area of life, it took me a long time to recognize that a bus was present, let alone that I needed to be on it – LGBTQ rights. It’s not that I wasn’t interested; I had plenty of books to read and films to watch, and lectures to attend…all of which I did. And it’s not as if I didn’t have friends that invited me – Rich, in particular, invited me again and again to participate…which at times I did. And it’s not that I didn’t use the knowledge I gained (and been given) to bring up the issue in the classes I led.

But I was focused on other things…or I had other responsibilities…or I knew that people would object if I pushed too hard…or…a million other reasons why I left the bus waiting for me.

And then I got the call asking me to come to St. Francis in the Foothills and I heard the voice asking me, “Why aren’t you on this bus already?”

And I thought about Rich who had invited me so many times…

And I thought about my beloved students, some of whom have come out…

And I thought about Pat who taught me to protest, and who we lost in the 1990’s AIDS crisis…

And I thought about my high school friend Raul who also died of AIDS during that period…

And I thought to myself, “Why aren’t I on this bus…? My whole life has prepared me for it.”

And I stepped up, beyond my hesitancy, and my fear, and whatever I thought someone else would think…

And I haven’t regretted it for a moment!’’

Why aren’t you on this bus already?

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