Monday, August 22, 2011

T is for Train

A couple of years ago we went to Washington D.C. We stayed for about four days.  On the first full day in Washington, we decided to take the Subway train into downtown. We had a group of about 15 youth.  Many of these youth had never ridden the subway before.  Some really enjoyed the first experience while others struggled with the enclosed space and the very different people that were on the train.  We made it safely downtown and back that first day without any altercations. 

On the second day, we rode the train again.  Again we were headed downtown.  There were a lot of stops at different stations between where we got on the train and where we were getting off.  At one of these stops, a gentleman wearing a walkman and carrying two white grocery type bags got on the train. He stood right next to the door and didn’t sit down.  Our youth were sitting on both sides of the train next to where he was standing.  He placed his bags on the ground and moved more towards the center of the train.  As the train took off, he was messing with his walkman.  All the youth at the time were pretty oblivious to him, but I and another adult chaperone had taken notice of him. 

Shortly after we started back down the track and the youth were busy talking away, the gentleman jumped up in the air and did a karate kick.  He then quickly turned around and kicked the other direction.  This was followed with some karate chops in the air to one side than the other.  Our youth froze.  They weren’t sure what was going on and what they should do.  A couple of the girls near him started to slowly inch their way down the seats away from him.  The other male adult chaperone told them to stay still and not to react.  The gentleman seemed to rewind his walkman to a certain spot, hit play and redo the karate moves.  He did this about three or four times.  The youth kept looking at each other without saying a word and seemed to be filled with a scared silence.

After about fifteen or so minutes, the gentleman stopped his walkman and leaned down to pick up his bags.  At the next stop he got off.  I got a glimpse of his bags and both had the name of a mental health facility on the side.  As the doors closed there was a sudden flutter of activity as youth nervously laughed and started to talk about what just happened.  We allowed them to have conversation until we got off the train.  Once we got off the train we bought the group together for a quick talk.     

I explained to the youth that there are a lot of different people in this world, some of them are well off, some people are poor, and some have plenty to eat while others go hungry, and some are sick or have mental issues or other disabilities while others of us are graced to be healthy.  But we are all God’s children and we don’t have the right to judge or put down someone or something we don’t understand.  We accept them for who they are and we act with kindness and understand.  We are to be Christ like in our actions and deeds.  Sometimes we might be scared by situations or people, but we most always offer a helping hand a loving heart.  We prayed for the man on the train as we stood in the crowded train station with people hurriedly passing us by.  We prayed for them too.

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