A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about children

The Kind Heart

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.

Posted by globalmomma 01:45 Archived in Germany Tagged children train ride frankfurt aachen disability Comments (0)

Reflections on time & family

When I now go to touristy spots in Italy, it makes me feel like a caged animal or a fly searching for an open window. I can't breathe, can't see light. I feel trapped. I feel an extreme irritation when someone approaches me and directly speaks English. I want to be challenged. I want to be met where I am... Not as a newbie guest visiting Italy for the first time, but as a friend returning.
I know the difference between rosso di Montalcino and rosso di Montepulciano... I know Chianti Classico and Primitivo and Vermentino. I have been to each of the regions. I know the grapes and the landscapes. So when I go on a wine tour designed for Americans, I frankly occasionally find it insults my intelligence. Enjoyable nonetheless to spend an entire afternoon touring Tuscany tasting locally produced wines, but I have a thought to provide tourist experiences for a more experienced traveller... and I realize that when you travel, things are still often black and white. Tourist or local. No matter how many shades of grey you may try to create. "Where are you from?", I hear on many occasions, including today. There is always a hesitation before either of us speaks an answer. There is no clear answer. Usually we say: "most recently, Seattle". Sometimes we say Tahoe for ease, or Rhode Island, when we are with our respective families. Or sometimes we use the areas of our births. It is difficult to explain our current predicament. People do not understand traveling for three months. They are confused. Vacation? No, not really, we answer, more of a lifestyle choice. Blank stare. We currently have no house, only stuff packed in storage. We need to move again when we return home, and we are not sure what home that will be. We look for a simple answer, but there is no easy response. There is not a word for this thing we are doing, this extended travel. This long vacation/life/migration. I have heard it referred to as 'modern nomads', travelers, vagabonds, but these all have an intonation of recklessness and insecurity. They imply we are searching for something that has not yet been found, moving around until we find that missing element. They don't convey the joy and light steps of a nomadic life that is on the go when it wants to be, moving from place to place at whim. There is nothing missing, there is only an inherent love of travel that one either contains or doesn't contain.  On our last trip, we called it the travel bug or travel fever, because it felt contagious, and once you caught it, there was no returning. Like malaria it keeps recurring, the fever, the sweats, the deep desire to be on the road again. Finally you need to seek treatment for the condition, and get moving. Sell your house, pack your bags, and the fidgeting stops.

Maybe my son will develop this travel bug too, we will have to wait and see what happens. Maybe he will become a homebody whose dream is a permanent residence for the rest of his life (HA!)... You never know what it is that will make each individual happy, you only have to search inside and find what you truly want, and to make that visible to the world. And as a parent, to try to nurture and basically get out of the way, to allow the child's true self to blossom and come through. I watch how quickly my son is growing and it is a continuous reminder of the impermanence of life.  It all goes by so quickly... I am amazed I am now double the age of when I graduated from high school, and yet it does not seem all that far away.  I tell people my son is fourteen months old and think, "where has the time gone?" When I hold him as he falls asleep, I still flashback to those first few nights looking into his brand new face, watching the little angel sleep in my arms. Days I will never forget, and yet, the memories keep building. Piling on top of the older ones like building old stone walls of a fortress. It is a foundation of solid moments that continues to grow until you look back at it and see the castle of memories and instants that you have created. I want that castle to be full, and solid, and strong. I want it to be massive and have areas of lightness and of density. Most of all, I want my family there, living inside, laughing and sharing meals. This is the important point of it all: the ultimate WHY for our trip to Italy together, the last few weeks of extended family visits, the reason my husband and I both have the singular goal of spending as much time with our son as possible while he still lets us, and maybe also a major reason we are all here on this Earth. To build our castles of life experience. Meditating on this very idea brought me to this thought: when I turn and look at the castle I have built, I want it to be the most beautiful one I see. The one just for me. You only get one, so live it like you want. Spend money to have experiences that last a lifetime. Build a beautiful romance. Work hard at the job you love. Start now. 

Posted by globalmomma 12:46 Archived in Italy Tagged children travel meditation family bug nomads journey Comments (0)

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