My Lost Moment With The Girl On The Train



Someone I never met changed my life forever.  I can still picture the whole scene in my mind.  To the rest of the world, the specific moment may have gone completely unnoticed.  In fact, even when I’ve tried to explain what happened to others, they still don’t seem to understand how this small moment in time could have such a significant impact on my life.  But it did.  And God has used it to allow me to see circumstances and people differently.  That’s kind of how He works sometimes, through gentle nudges.  One thing I know for sure is I don’t ever want to ignore His small whispers again.   Here’s the story of the “lost moment” that changed my life and the way I look at things.

Several years ago, my friend and I took our young daughters on a trip to the American Girl Store in Chicago to celebrate their birthdays.  We did the same trip the year before, and had so much fun, we decided to do it again. Girl days are the best (especially when you are surrounded by boys), and we couldn’t wait!  We got up early to catch our train, which took us to Union Station.  From there we caught a cab to our final destination- The American Girl Store.  We had a great day with the girls, and did the whole “American Girl Experience”.  We lunched at the cafe with our girls (and their “girls”); picked out new doll outfits; and even stopped at the “doll hospital” because one of the “girls” had a loose head.  When we were all dolled-out,  we caught a cab back to the train station.  To keep up with our tradition, we stopped at Nuts On Clark, located in Union Station, so I could get my cheese, caramel, and kettle corn mix for the ride home.  (Note: If you have never had Nuts on Clark popcorn, please make sure you do so before you die.  It is one of the best things on earth.)  When we boarded our train, the girls wanted to sit on the upper level of the train.  My friend said she would go sit up there with them.  I am afraid of heights, and the thought of sitting up top made me want to toss my American Girl cookies I had with lunch.  I was perfectly happy to sit down below, alone with my popcorn.

That is when it happened.  The train made a scheduled stop in one of the Illinois towns on the way home.  It had started to rain, and I watched a young woman struggling to get her unhappy toddler and her crying baby on to the train.  She was also carrying a large over-stuffed duffle bag.  I could tell something was wrong.  The baby and the toddler were screaming, and by the look on her face, I could see this young mom was crying too.  I continued to watched the woman rocking her wailing baby from side to side, while she stared blankly out the window at the world rushing by.  I thought about offering to help her.  I wanted to do something to help her.  But I chose to do the worst possible thing I could have done… absolutely nothing.   As the train came to her stop, she did her best to gather up all of her belongings and babies,  and somehow managed to to get down the stairs and off the train.  And just like that- she was gone.  And so was the opportunity to do something- anything– to help her. To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t reach out to her.  What was I afraid of?  Did I think she was dangerous?  I don’t remember feeling threatened by her.  I mean, she had two young children with her, how threatening could she have been?

I made a promise to myself that I would not let a chance like that go by again.  It’s not enough to just “feel bad” for someone who may be hurting.  It’s our responsibility as human beings to do something about it.  I asked God to open my eyes to those who are hurting, and to make me brave and bold enough to do something about it.

After that little chat with God, things got cray.  I found myself smack dab in the middle of SO many situations where I’ve had the chance to help someone else. I’ve chased coupons and receipts through a Target parking lot on a windy day when a woman’s purse accidentally dumped out.  I’ve helped push the shopping carts of young moms who struggled to hold the hands of their toddlers on the way back to their minivans. I even watched a man run into a stop light and get thrown from his truck onto the pavement right in front of me.  I covered him with clothes I found in my car, held his hand, and waited with him until help came.  It wasn’t until I got back into my car, with shaking hands, covered with someone else’s blood, that it all sunk in what just happened.  God was answering my prayer.  And that is wild, amazing, and freakin’ scary, all at the same time.  Here’s the thing- I think we are all given these moments to do something every single day.  It’s just a matter of how we perceive what’s going on around us.

It’s crazy to think someone I’ve never met and know nothing about can have such a big impact on my life.  The young woman on the train will never know how much that short moment in time affected me.  She made me want to be a better person.  I wanted to share this story because we often only have one shot to make a difference in someone’s life.  Those chances are gifts, and we need to be careful not to waste them.

If I had the chance to see her one more time, this is what I would say: “I saw you.  I know you were doing the best you could.  You are a good mom;  I could see it by the way you rocked your baby boy, and the way you gently held your daughter’s hand.  Being a mom is rough sometimes, isn’t it? It was a hard day, and I am sorry I didn’t try to help you.  I have thought about you often and I pray you never gave up hope.  You are worth it.  Those babies are worth it.  Sometimes life gets almost unbearable and we don’t know if we can fight anymore.  Know that I’m on your side and I’m rooting for you, wherever you are.  I am your cheerleader. Thank you for being such an inspiration in my life.  You have made a difference.”







A Winter Morning At The Zoo

Today my son made besties with a Siberian tiger.  I’m not even kidding.  They practically had a playdate right there in the middle of the Big Cats Building, separated by only a couple inches of glass.  It was freakin’ fantastic.

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This Morning’s Random Quotes From My Five Year Old:

“Why do people even have hair? Because if you get a tick on your head, you can’t even see it with hair.”  (Good point, I guess.)

“I wonder what heaven is like.  I bet you just put your hand out, pray for ice cream, and it just appears right in your hand.” (He’s gotta be right on this.)

“Mom, we’re gonna be late for school.  Again.  That’s fine.  I’ll just tell everyone we’re moving to Texas.” (Texas?  Huh.  Actually doesn’t sound like that bad of an idea right now.)

“I don’t care if it’s seven degrees out.  I’m not wearing a jacket.  I’ll look ridiculous.” (I blame this comment on all his older siblings.  #TooCool)

“I’m pretty sure all the cars are slowing down next to us ‘cuz they want to see my Spider-Man hat.”

“Mom, watch me juggle these invisible balls with my eyes closed.”

“Mom.  My pee kinda got out of control here.” (Yelling from the inside of a public bathroom stall.)

“I wish dinosaurs were still around, but they all died.  But we don’t have to feel bad for them.  They were mean anyway.” (Mean people- and dinosaurs- suck.)

“Mom, can you please stop talking.  I like it quiet when I’m looking at animals.” (Alrighty, then.)

“Mom, we both woke up on the right side of the bed today, and you look pretty and beautiful.  It’s both our lucky days, Mom!”

Lucky, indeed. Oh, how I love this boy.




Finding Balance

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I can clearly remember thinking to myself, “Dang, Kaia.  You may have screwed up a lot today, but at least you got this bedtime thing down!”  It would be 7:00p.m., and we would hold our breath as we army crawled from their bedroom floors, praying they wouldn’t wake up.  Then we’d high-five each other, make gigantic bowls of ice cream, and plop in front of the t.v. to watch Desperate Housewives (my choice, not Joel’s).  This was when we had four kids under the age of four.  Our house was run on a strict schedule.  (Those were also the glory days when I could consume massive amounts of ice cream every night with no negative side effects to my body, but I digress.)  The kids were fed, napped, and went to bed at the same time every day.   I felt like I had the daily routine down pat in those days.

Newsflash: 7:00p.m. bedtime only lasts so long.

It was around the time my oldest started preschool and joined a t-ball team, that the schedule I was so proud of maintaining, started to get a little more complicated.  Then I blinked: Fast forward to ten years later.  T-ball practice has turned into travel basketball and club soccer.  There never seems to be a night when there is not a practice or a game.  Most evenings we’re not home until after 9:00p.m.  The schedule (which is really more like a spreadsheet these days) has become very full.  Ok, I’ll be honest- it’s a little too full.  It’s actually blown up, and so does my head every morning when I look at the calendar, as I try to figure out how I can clone myself by 4:00p.m.  I know most parents are feeling the same way.

All this chasing the clock has got me thinking.  I’ve started to develop a little love/hate relationship with competitive sports.  Ok.  There, I said it.  Don’t get my wrong, sports are important and a big deal in my family.  There are definitely many advantages of kids being a part of a team.  My kids have learned some invaluable lessons through competitive sports, and I absolutely love cheering them on while they play.   However, it’s just so easy to get caught up in it all, and forget that kids need down time to just be kids.  I’ll even take it a step further and say, families need down time to just be families.  I don’t want to be teaching my kids, consciously or not, that sports activities come before everything else.  They should not think soccer is what they are living for.

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I want my kids to look back on their childhood and smile when they remember the feeling they had on the night they won the championship game.  But I also hope they remember the nights we chose to do nothing, but just be together.  I hope they remember some lazy weekends of not even caring to check what time it is.  I want them to remember making homemade ice cream with their dad on a Saturday afternoon. I  hope they remember the time I said, “Ok”, when they asked if they could go out on the lake at midnight with their friends.   They had a blast, and I have to admit, so did I just watching them.

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I guess what I’m saying is,  I’m going to make a conscience effort to slow our lives down once in a while.  It’s ok to wipe the schedule clean sometimes, even if the world is telling us it’s not.  I want to look at my kids and really pay attention to the things they are talking about, without always thinking about all the places we have to be that night.  Sometimes it’s okay to reevaluate our goals if they got sidetracked along the way and don’t measure up with our values.   I’m not sure why we’re always running, or who we’re even running from.  Life is not a race.  Easier said than done, but I’m trying to remember that.friend weekend up north-00410.jpg