It’s a veritable United Nations, the “228 Park & Ride,” where thousands of Houston westsiders catch daily buses. A place also where scores of solo drivers like myself occasionally or regularly pick up some trusting stranger so we can zoom down the barricaded high-speed lane into the city rather than poke along in stop-and-go traffic on the freeway. Over the years I have chauffeured passengers from Africa and Asia, Barbados and Bolivia, Singapore and Scandinavia, Russia and Rwanda, China and Croatia.
This particular day my passenger comes from Greece. His name is Farook, he tells me, carefully distinguishing it from Farouk — “the Moslem name.” “I am a Zoroastrian,” he proudly announces as we whiz along. “My family has been Zoroastrian for many generations.” I acknowledge the Persian origins of that small but influential world religion, founded five centuries before Christ by the Persian prophet Zarathustra, or Zoroaster, as the Greeks called him.
“I once read a Christian poem about the birth of Jesus which mentions the priests of Ahura Mazda,” I remark. “Did you know that the Wise Men who visited the Christ-child were possibly Zoroastrian priests?” He had heard that, he said. Zoroastrians worship one Creator God, whom they call Ahura Mazda. Farook seemed pleasantly surprised that an American Christian would know the name. “What are your major teachings?” I inquire. Farook says they are “to think well, do well and speak well.”
I tell Farook that as a Christian I applaud Zoroastrianism as a precursor to Christianity. I am happy that Zarathustra called the ancient pagan Persians to worship the one true God and that he taught them high ethical principles. I also note that no other spiritual leader — whether Zarathustra, Buddha, Mohammad or Moses — claimed the ability to do what Jesus of Nazareth promises. Not one of them offered peace with God through the forgiveness of sins and the gift of everlasting life. Farook indicates an openness to these new ideas as we approach his office building downtown. He disembarks, we both express pleasure at having met, and hope that we will cross paths again.