Twice a year I travel to Northern California for business, and I always take the train. I love the train. I love that I can have a workspace and choose to work or not. I love to look out the window. I love that I can bring my own food or take advantage of the Café Car. And I love to interact with the people around me.
On my most recent trip, finding the coveted table landed me across from a mother and her toddler. I retrieved what I wanted from my briefcase, and as I turned to sit, noticed that the little girl with crystal blue eyes was bouncing and singing along with something on her mother’s phone. It only took a second to recognize the tune, and before I sat, I took to bouncing and singing myself. Mom’s eyes widened, and the little cherub smiled. Mom said, “There are a lot of people that say I shouldn’t let her use media, but on a long ride like this, it is better than her disturbing others.”
“Honey, I have 12 grandchildren. I promise it won’t bother me a bit. Don’t be surprised if you hear me singing along.”
I could see the relief on her face. But the moment was broken when another passenger took the seat across from me. Hearing the music, she looked at mom and said in a clipped tone, “Don’t you have headphones for her?” Mom answered that she was too young for them.
The solo male passenger behind mom and I exchanged glances, and a non-verbal pact was made. We took every opportunity to engage the cherub and encourage mom.
My seat mate decided that her answer to the situation was to put in her own ear buds and make phone calls. Her talking was 10 times louder than the cherub’s music. She touted her accomplishments as a writer/speaker to people on multiple calls.
She then told me about her recent opportunity to speak and pray at a conference for a “well known” faith-based food chain. I wanted to be offended by and say something about her lack of humbleness and the way she had acted to mom, especially when she brought God into the equation. But that would have been just as bad on my part.
The solo male rider’s stop came and before he exited the train he leaned over and said something to mom. I couldn’t hear his comment, but judging from the smile on her face, I’m sure it was kind.
The next stop was for writer, mom and cherub. Ms. writer left with a quasi-complement to mom and then pushed ahead as mom tried to gather three bags and her daughter. My offer to help carry something was declined, and I sensed she didn’t want to cause any more trouble for the day.
Left to myself for the rest of the trip, I was reminded that every day we are given choices. We choose how we speak. We choose how we treat others. We choose our attitude. Life is short, and we don’t always know what others are going through. Let’s err on the side of good and not bad. Let’s choose kindness. Let’s choose encouragement. Let’s choose love.