My husband and I were tired on this last two days of a journey by train. Our car filled up quickly. A mother and two small children(preschool age) took seats in front of us.
Usually we bring snacks and reading materials, knitting for me if I get tired of reading. Or we can easily fall asleep.
Not on this trip however. The children of the young mother became very restless, causing the mother to lose her patience as she tried to keep her boy and girl quiet. This only caused the situation to escalate. Soon there were tears and rebellion, with no relief in sight. You could tell everyone around us were growing irritated with them. Including us. It wasn’t difficult to see that ignoring them wasn’t the answer, because now the children did not want to stay in their assigned seats, but wander about causing more hardship for the poor mother, who lost all control and began yelling at them. This all went on for over an hour. The children would have to tire and maybe fall asleep, we thought. We were wrong.
Finally, out of sympathy for the young woman (and in desperation) we decided to befriend this little trio. After we introduced ourselves as retired teachers, the children immediately warmed up to my husband. I asked if my husband could read to the children so the mother could take a break. She and I went to the snack bar for coffee.
Through her story, I learned not to be too judgmental. She told a story that just about broke my heart. She related through tears about her divorce from her husband. She was taking the children to be left with their father in a strange new city. She was trying her best to hold it all together until she would say goodbye to them and then ride the train home.
While this story did not have a happy ending for the little family, our actions did have an influence on other passengers.
The mother and I came back to our seats to find the children sitting on laps of neighboring passengers. The kindness of strangers was finally revealed. It began with just a small action from us and then spread outward. The rest of the trip became enjoyable.
Some hours later the train pulled into the station where the mother and the two children left us with tears and hugs of goodbye. We wished them the best.