I have a story to tell about our train ride yesterday. We were traveling in the high speed ICE German train (Deutsche Bahn) from Frankfurt, Germany to Brussels, Belgium. The total trip was just over three hours. We hadn't reserved our seats, which was a mistake at 9 Euro extra, we had only purchased the tickets to board the train. We found a non-reserved spot after hauling our bags and pushing the baby carriage through the tight aisles of three train compartments. We sat down, had two seats and a table for Bodhi to play, and all was well.
It always amazes me how much humanity you find on a train. You can meet amazing people, angry people, difficult people, unhappy people, busy people, and kind people. In an instant you know often know them, before any interaction. There was a family that got on at the first stop, three kids in tow, all complaining and fighting. Many bags, much difficulty, and total disorganization. They are coming toward us and our feeling is "utoh". They get into their assigned seats next to ours, but one child will not move over, so they ask us to give up one of our seats. It takes us a few minutes to gather up our things, Bodhi's toys, the food, and move over; and just five minutes later, they get off at the next stop. My husband is extremely irritated. Why would they make us bother to go through all of that effort just so they could place their bags on one of their reserved seats? Why was it so important to make us move over for only fifteen minutes' ride on the train? It was difficult to understand except to understand that perhaps they were just the difficult types.
Not five minutes before, we had met this other man who got on the train, and had reserved the two seats across from us: Late 40's, grey receding hairline, blue clear eyes, his smile like a laugh. He was traveling alone with a boy about 4-5 years old, who was handicapped with muscular dystrophy and unable to walk. The man carried the boy to his seat, then carried all of their bags. They could have taken many of the more convenient handicapped seats near the entrance. They had the two seats across from our table and we began moving our things and trying to help with his bags. He sees the baby, and says, no no, I will take these two unreserved seats one row behind, it is no problem. We say it is no problem, we will share it, but he insists. We chat for a minute and offer the boy a large German pretzel. Bodhi has the other one in his mouth, he loves them. At first, I am struck with guilt and feel badly that he reserved the seats and is taking lesser seats without a table, when he likely needs them more. As the minutes pass though, I am listening behind me to their interactions. The man is incredibly kind and tender. He is cradling the little boy on his lap and they are watching a nature film in German. I am playing with Bodhi and tickling him, and he is laughing. Then they are laughing and he is tickling the little boy, the boy is giggling. I glance back and see such a happy little boy, and his father has a look of absolute contentment. When they are getting set to get off in Aachen, we again thank him for use of his seats, he thanks us for the pretzel, and I sense not a single ounce of self-pity or frustration in him, only contentment. I realize I have received another invaluable gift of traveling, and after the man and his son get off the train, I burst into tears. I am so thankful to God and the universe that the little boy is so obviously loved, especially one that needs to much extra care. I feel so blessed to have witnessed this man's joy and wisdom.
I find now that it is of utmost importance to me that all children everywhere be loved. Maybe this will be my main calling in life, somehow. When I feel children are not getting this basic right, it tears me up inside and I want to scream injustice and swoop in, gather up all of these abused or neglected children into my arms, and give them all the love I have left. And when I see a child, especially one with such special needs and challenges, being so fully attended and adored, it fills my heart with a flood of emotion and gratitude. Bless that man with his kind, giving heart. His kindness was like a splash of cold water in my face, telling me to stop worrying about things I cannot control, to stop focusing on things that don't work out, and to appreciate my many blessings, realizing that the ability to give and share love is really the best gift that we have.