On the way home from my weekly OB appointment during the ninth month of my last pregnancy I stepped onto a very crowded train. It was rush hour, which meant I had spent far longer than planned waiting at the Dr.’s office just so I could get weighed, have my blood pressure taken, asked if I had any questions and then dismissed until next week. I had tried to enjoy the alone time, read, listen unobtrusively to others’ conversations and not be annoyed at waiting and waiting. But it hadn’t worked. I sat there wishing I’d brought more than a granola bar to eat and feeling frustrated about needing to use the bathroom, yet again. So when the train pulled up and I had to squeeze in just to find a place to hang on it just about drove me to tears. Everyone around me had earphones in, books and newspapers blocking their faces or the classic eyes-closed, I’m already asleep, don’t bother me position. A sixty-something year old man in a furry hat noticed me and scooted his bag over on the ground to make a spot for me to hold onto the pole he was using. He glanced around at the people sitting, searching for someone to be valiant or at least cordial and offer the nine-months-pregnant lady a seat, but to no avail.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” he asked in an accent I didn’t recognize.
“It’s a girl,” I answered. Apparently I had still managed enough of a smile through my frustration to invite conversation.
“Girls are always late,” he said.
“I hope not.” I really hoped not. Nine months was enough already!
“They are,” he said again. “But it’s okay, because they are beautiful.”
His genuine and peaceful way of speaking started to calm my frazzled nerves. He surveyed the train again, looking to see if anyone had noticed me yet. Everyone remained in the same state, self-absorbed. He started again, “People don’t ever talk to each other anymore. People need to talk. How will we learn what others have to offer if no one talks?” A poignant question for a crowded train ride.
“We won’t,” I answered.
“People are all that really make a difference. When I left my country to come here I left behind my family. I thought I would have to go back; I was so lonely. But I am still here, thirty-seven years later because I created family here. I had to talk to people and be the one to help my neighbors. Suddenly you have purpose when you are part of a family, even if it’s one you created just through helping each other, yes?”
I smiled and nodded, feeling the truth of his words. His stop came up next and before he got off the train he secured a seat for me by blocking the oncoming passengers. He smiled and gave a slight bow. “Bless you and the new baby,” he said as the train doors slid closed behind him.
I made eye contact with the woman who sat down next to me, “How are you?” I asked. She looked a little surprised, but smiled back and we shared a bit of what we each had to offer the rest of the way home.
Where have you found unexpected wisdom? Would you share some with us?