(real) train thoughts

Just a bit of writing I did on the train last weekend. For some context — Alana, Cassidi, and I ended up going with a group of about 10 students from UC-Davis that are studying here this term (they leave in like three weeks I think) to Cape Town Saturday afternoon and we came back Sunday morning. They were celebrating two birthdays in their group, and in a whirlwind of craziness, we found ourselves, 45 minutes after hearing about the trip, showered, packed, and on our way to the train station. It was a crazy adventure of a weekend that I’ll detail later when I can put pictures with it. For now, though – yeah, these are just a couple of random bits and pieces that I wrote after we finished passing my notebook around.


3. Across: A Four-Letter Word for Difference, Tolerance, and Acceptance.

A woman sits across from me with a crossword puzzle open on her lap, a dictionary open on top of it. She’s wearing a light blue button down up top and black slacks. She has the disheveled look of a woman who’s long been working, weary from hours on her feet. She sinks into her small train seat because exhaustion demands it, but there’s a certain determination about her that makes even the dark circles under her eyes appear full of diligence, hope and promise.
A group of us students, 13 in number, look around us on the train, uncomfortable in each our own ways – we are outsiders in this world. We see that which we do not know, cannot know, a look of poverty and despair that fills us foremost with pity and fear.
But I watch the woman across from me, looking up word after word in the dictionary, filling in bubbles on her puzzle, and I feel no fear or apprehension. This is but another sector of another culture, another way of life, that I have the privilege to experience, if even for a 40 minute train ride.
The biggest loss, the biggest fear of mine, truly, is that this will be our only meeting – our culture and hers, theirs – that we’ll never get a chance to exchange greetings and understand each other as individuals, rather than merely by the clothes we wear, the accents we pronounce our words with, and the colors of our skin.


Hallelujah, Praise Jesus

“Hallelujah, Praise God,” two women, fragile as they are soft-spoken, sing as they enter the train. They traverse the length of our car, back and forth once, then twice. The leading woman, middle-aged and gentle in countenance, holds a mug, a simple yellow coffee mug. In it must be beads or change, and they strike a beat with it as they continue to lift their voices upwards, “praise God,” and “hallelujah.” The second woman, younger perhaps, is blind, her eyes permanently fixed upwards, a peace encompassing her distant eyes and easy features. She holds lightly the arm of the woman in front, trusting wholly, her faith leading her and filling her. Her music seems to define her, and the women bring the car to near silence. I find myself beginning to hum, “hallelujah,” quietly, in tune with them. I half expect the car to keep beat with them, to join in their serenity, their exaltation, but although quieted, no one raises their voices in joining. The two singing women, lovers of their God, are gone now, gone as fast as they came, gone before I could finish describing them and their solitude, their quiet, yet vocal hope for more. Their song seemed more than worship, it seemed filled with honest pleas to a heavenly Father.

Published in: on February 23, 2008 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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