An Opportunity To Connect On The Train Home
--by wayfarer, posted Sep 22, 2010
Sitting on the train home with my wife, Julie, my attention kept being drawn to the young man sitting across the aisle from us. I knew there was something there I ought to be seeing – but what was it?
I read my book and glanced over, I drank some juice and glanced over, I put my earphones in - and glanced over. What wasn’t I seeing?
He must have been about seventeen or eighteen, a handsome young man, sitting there with his bags on the seat across from him. It wasn’t a particularly cold day but he had his jacket zipped up all the way to his mouth. But my own boys would do that.
Between Edinburgh and Motherwell the picture started to take shape and the spaces started to fill themselves. His face was red, as if he had been really cold. When his hands came out his pockets they were red too, but they were also cracked, cut and dirty. When he turned to look at the scenery I noticed his face, hardly old enough for real stubble, was shaved and clean, but from his jaw line and back his neck was black.
It was as if he’d recently scrubbed a dirty face clean with cold water.
Looking down I saw shoes I wouldn’t give to a charity shop and noticed he was wearing at least two pairs of socks, none of which matched.
Half way through the journey he dug into his pocket and carefully counted out his money. It was all in loose change.
As the train approached his stop he stood up to organise himself. I noticed that his bags were a sleeping back and a small rucksack. His clothes were pushing out of the rucksack through a burst zip.
All through the trip I had wanted to talk to this guy but didn’t know why. How do you do that without embarrassing or being embarrassing? But I reckoned I had enough of the picture now.
“Mate,” I said (from my comfortable seat, with money in my pocket, coming back from an enjoyable trip away, and all I needed around me,) “are you okay.”
A little surprised to be spoken to he said, “Yes,” but his expression said, “Why are you asking?”
“Because you look like you’ve been having a hard time.” There. I was verging on being rude but didn’t know what else to say.
“Ah,” he said, “I’m just worried. I’m going to see my mum and I haven’t seen her for a while.
Worried about going to see his mum?
“For about two years,” he added. Two years during which he’d been sleeping on the street and begging for spare change, I guessed. What had caused that and what had brought about this worrying reconciliation? It didn’t matter. All I knew was he was heading in the right direction.
“Good man,” I said with my most encouraging smile. “Have you got everything you need?”
I meant money, but he said he was fine.
I wished him luck and watched him leave the train. As he headed off to meet his mum I closed my eyes and sent up a prayer that love would be waiting for him.
Why did I feel tears well up as I prayed? Maybe because I empathised on a deeper lever; maybe because we are all lost boys and girls trying to find our way home. And we all hope Love is waiting for us.