I'm just going to come right out and ask you to help me.
I am so full of anger and sadness right now and I really need to channel this emotion into something uplifting and inspirational. I truly believe we can do something transformative if you will help.
So, if you are willing to take a moment to help me reach out to someone who really needs it, then please read about my commute home from work today and then decide whether you will take a short moment to help me do something really wonderful.
I know most of you read my blog and carry on. But today I'm asking from the bottom of my heart for you to read today's post and then leave a comment. And then forward a link to my blog to anyone else that you think would be willing to help me out.
I want to collect as many messages of support as possible for a woman I met on my train ride home from work today. This is why:
I got on the train today just in the nick of time. I usually sit much closer to the front of the train, but today I must have been running behind, and I only got as far as the accessibility coach - the designated car for people with mobility issues and people with strollers. I didn't expect to get a seat, but as I walked on, I saw an empty spot beside a sweet little girl.
I noticed her mom and her sister were sitting across from her with a third little baby girl in a stroller. I quickly asked the woman if she minded if I sat with them, and she gestured for me to sit down and said something along the lines of, "as long as you can handle the shrieking" and with a smile she explained to me that her 11 month old daughter had just learned a new sound and was practising it with verve! I smiled and assured her I could tune out just about anything with 2 young children of my own at home.
I settled in and pulled some reading out of my bag for the trip home. Within minutes, I felt a sweet little leg resting on my knee. I peeked over my paper and saw the little baby resting her foot on my leg. I couldn't resist a smile and a short game of 'peekaboo'. I got some simply beautiful smiles - heart melting ones!
Next thing I knew, the little girl beside me couldn't help giggling about her sister using me as an ottoman and before I knew it, my seatmate and I had become fast friends. Well, the oldest little girl who was sitting across from us was not one to be left out and she jumped right into the conversation - no holds barred. The two of them delighted in telling me their names, asking me what my name was, telling me where they were going, telling me where they came from, and asking me how to spell my name.
It was exhilarating.
I often find the train ride to and from work to be depressing - train cars full of people quietly trundling to and from work - day in and day out. These sweet little munchkins were the absolute highlight of my day... and it should be noted that I had a cupcake today! (I need to cut SOME of my anger with a bit of humour!)
These two girls - Jasmine and Molly - were beautiful both inside and out. They proudly showed me the barrettes and elastics they had chosen together to wear that day. They both nearly exploded with pride as they demonstrated that they could do up their shoes themselves.
Their mother and I got chatting as well and I found out that they had just arrived in Canada from Ireland a month ago and she and her husband and 3 girls were doing their best to get settled in, adjust to a new country, new surroundings... new everything! On this particular day, this woman was taking Jasmine, her eldest daughter, to her Irish dancing class.
I didn't bother to tell her that I've had my daughter for 4 years, have never moved, and it STILL took me 4 years to enroll her in swimming lessons. This woman was instantly amazing in my eyes. Here she is in a new country, managing 3 young girls on her own during the day, and she has managed to get her child signed up for dance lessons in under 4 weeks! I was in the presence of an extraordinary woman.
The girls were particularly interested in my non-Irish accent and in my fascination with their vernacular. For example, Molly - the 3 year old - said to Jasmine, "can I please have that lil' gal with the purple hat?" She was referring to one of the three little dolls that Jasmine had pulled out of her bag to play with - her eye on me the whole time to see what my reaction would be to her dolls (I of course made a huge deal about how cute they were!). It was subtle, but the word 'gal' is just not one that most 3 year old girls that I know would use.
The girls and their mother seemed pleased to be able to explain to me that Jasmine had a different Irish accent than did Molly or her mother because Jasmine was raised in a different part of the country than her sister.
The more I listened, the more they wanted to share. The girls oohed and ahhed over the townhouses along the railway line, remarked many times that I was funny, pored over pictures of my kids while memorizing their names, and gave me their separate versions of what the plane ride from Ireland to Canada was like. Apparently when you are Jasmine and you are 6 years old, the trip goes like this:
"I didn't sleep one bit all the way here. First of all, we left Ireland and flew 10 minutes to England, and then we flew 8 minutes from England to here."
Apparently if you are 3 years old and your name is Molly, you sleep the whole way. :-)
The whole time, I chatted away with their mother and did my best to help her keep the kids occupied while she attended to her youngest. Little Annabelle, "Belle" for short, was a normal 11 month old baby, shrieking regularly to test out the new sound she could make. Her mom was making a never ending effort to keep Belle quiet. She had several soothers on hand, a continuous supply of Cheerios, a bottle and some toys, and used everything in her arsenal to be respectful of the other passengers and keep Belle as quiet as she could.
If you are a parent, though, you will know that this can sometimes be a completely futile endeavour. Especially when they are learning to communicate, babies can be especially persistent and definite about their desire to 'talk'.
We got chatting about how hard it was to keep babies quiet, and she shared her observation that in Canada it seems as though the expectation is that babies should be quiet, while in Ireland, people are generally more accepting of babies and children, and to have young ones chatting and babbling away in public is simply not a big deal. All the while, she gently reminded her girls to keep their voices down and did her best to keep the baby distracted.
I commented to her that I was pretty certain that most people - even if they find the noise level irritating - understand that sometimes you just can't help that babies can be loud.
And then it happened.
A man behind us loudly huffed and rattled his paper and commented for all to hear that, "This is ridiculous! Why don't you do something." To her credit, my new friend (and it's such a shame that I never did learn what her name was) stood up, looked him in the eye, and asked, "What would you have me do?" He just loudly sighed. She went on to ask him, "Would you prefer I clamp my hand over her face?" to which he said, "That would be a good start".
She sat down, while I sat there in complete shock. I had never witnessed anything like this. My mind was screaming at me to turn around and say something to him, but I was just stunned.
Just as I turned to say something to her, another woman behind her stood up and said to him, "This is a child friendly train, and if you don't like it, maybe you should leave." Then she looked at the mother and said loudly, "I support you." Thankfully, there was some soft clapping and nods of agreement around us.
I turned briefly to look at the man, and then turned back to say something to the mother, only to find her in tears. Her lip was quivering and she was quietly dabbing her eyes with a tissue. She quietly cried as I reached over and touched her knee, tried to reassure her, and asked her if she wanted me to go talk to him. She shook her head, but couldn't talk. I was just about to turn around to congratulate this neanderthal on reducing a mother of three small children to tears when Jasmine and Molly started to ask questions and try to comfort their mother.
Jasmine asked me, "Why did that man yell at our Mum?" Molly looked at me with worry and asked, "Is that man angry at our Mum? Does he not like Belle?"
Jasmine rubbed her mother's shoulder quietly and kept asking her why she was crying.
Then Molly looked at me with a quivering lip and asked me, "Will they take Annabelle from us?"
The tears instantly streamed down my face. I didn't dare confront this man for fear of upsetting these sweet little girls any more, but I could barely see straight from rage.
This woman had just as much right to be on a train as anyone else did. She was in the accessibility car - exactly where she should be with a stroller and young kids. She couldn't move to a different car - he could.
Anyone who has been a parent, or has spent any amount of time with small children must know how completely draining it can be when you are caring for little ones. And travelling with them in public practically requires a strategic planning document!
But this woman isn't just a mother (and that alone is reason to show some empathy), but she is a person, and I firmly believe that we are all just people stuck together here on this big ball of dirt hurtling through the sky. NONE of us is better than the other, and we are all deserving of compassion and empathy.
This poor woman could not regain her composure for the rest of her trip. She could not utter one more word to me or to her children. I felt like I could feel her heart breaking and her faith in people dissolving.
Jasmine and Molly asked if I thought people didn't like Belle, and I said as loudly as I could muster through the tears, "No... she's just perfect. You're all just perfect."
When they got to their stop, the woman was finally able to say, "It was nice to meet you," and she and her children left the train. As they walked past the man, he just laughed at her. I couldn't even compose myself to say one word to him.
One moment I was having the most life-affirming, uplifting moment I'd had in my life. People from different corners of the world connecting like old friends.
And the next, the two of us are in tears, and the children are completely confused and scared. Something is seriously not right in this world if that's how some people think they can treat others.
I got off the train at my stop, walked to my car, got in and burst into tears. Partly with shame that I couldn't bring myself to stand up to him, and partly in empathy as a mom who had just seen a fellow mother's spirit completely decimated.
As I sat there, I knew I wanted to do something to restore this woman's spirit. To assure her that not everyone is a complete boor in Canada. To comfort her in some way and help make sure that every time she gets on that train that she doesn't have to think about the man who would have her muzzle an infant rather than disturb his train trip... that instead she could think about all the people out there who can relate to her, and who can empathize with her, and who support her.
So, that is why I am asking you to PLEASE leave a message of support, or empathy, or understanding, or even just a virtual hug for this woman. You don't even need to leave your name - you can leave a message anonymously. Just scroll down to where it says "Post a Comment" and leave your comment in the box below (if you don't see a box, then click where it indicates the number of comments left on the post so far). Then just click on the drop down menu and select 'anonymous' if you'd like, or if you want to leave your name, just select 'name/URL' and type in your name (you can ignore the URL part - just leave it blank). Then click "post comment".
And then, if you are inclined to do more, think about asking others to read this and do the same.
I am going to wait for her on the accessibility car next Tuesday and hopefully I can show her that there are still some good people out there who think she's doing a great job.
So... let's see what we can do in one week. I have never done anything like this before in my life, but I have also never before felt more strongly about something.
This life is tough enough... let's do something really wonderful together.