Everyone hurried to board the train as it came to a stop at the Kitchener station.
People rushed towards the edge of the platform and jockeyed for position to get onto the train, even though we all had reserved seats. Other people were glued to their phones—texting, talking, swiping, reading, comparing, and “liking.” Some just stared blankly ahead or up into the sky, perhaps thinking about their never ending to-do lists.
And that’s when I saw Isabelle.
She was carrying a beefy 11-month old baby in one arm, a heavy-looking carseat in the other arm, and a large duffle bag over her shoulder. She walked like a penguin, each tiny step appearing to be a massive struggle. People hurried past her not seeming to notice that she needed help.
I walked faster. “Excuse me,” I called out. “Do you need help?”
She didn’t hear me.
I walked up beside her. “Do you need a hand?” I asked, this time making eye contact with her.
She smiled. Her eyes were gentle behind glasses that had fallen down to the tip of her nose.
“I’d really appreciate some help,” she responded.
I took the carseat from her and she pushed her glasses back up to her eyes.
“Holy shit!” I said. “That’s heavy!”
She laughed and adjusted her baby in her arms. “I’m Isabelle,” she said and offered to shake my hand.
I followed her to her seat and helped load her things into the luggage rack.
“I’ll come back and give you hand when the train stops in Toronto,” I said.
I found my own seat and the train pulled away from the station.
As the train sped up I stared out the window and watched buildings, cars, trees, farms, and people pass in a blur. It was impossible to catch details or focus on anything outside the train because the scene was gone as quickly as it came.
Sometimes it feels like our brains and our lives are moving as quickly as a speeding train. We’re always in a rush to get things done and worrying about what we forgot to do.
Our identities get tied-up into believing that being busy is a good thing. But when we’re always in a hurry we miss out on what’s going on around us. We’re so focused on our own lives it’s like we’re wearing blinders.
We think multi-tasking is a badge to be worn with pride.
We try to absorb the ridiculous amount of information that comes at us every day in the news. We stare at our smart phones reading articles about terrorist attacks on the other side of the planet while we cluck our tongues and wonder what this world is coming to. “Where is our humanity?” we ask ourselves.
We watch what other people are doing in the social media universe, comparing carefully manicured Facebook posts that make someone seem perfect and then judging our own lives against them.
And through all of it, life passes by. We hurry past the people who need our help, compassion, and care. Every day we have a chance to prove that our world is more humane than we give it credit for, but we’re too busy—or maybe too afraid—to notice.
The train slowed down in Toronto and everyone jumped out of their seats to grab their luggage and rush to the door.
I walked over to Isabelle’s train. The carseat was already waiting for her on the platform so I waited beside it. Her and her baby were the last ones off the train and they both greeted me with smiles.
We walked together and chatted. She was heading to Brockville and I would be continuing on to Montreal. She introduced me to her chubby baby who looked at me funny. I laughed and readjusted the awkward carseat in my arms.
I helped Isabelle onto her new train car, stored her carseat once again, and we said goodbye.
“Thank you, Eric,” she said.
I stepped out of the train. There was an attendant directing passengers and I stopped to ask him a question.
“Do I have time to go into the main station and grab some food?” I asked.
He looked at his watch and shrugged. “The train leaves in 15 minutes. You can make it but you’re gonna have to rush!”
I smiled and hurried away in the other direction.