Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crossing Paths - A Teen In Pain

Ninety-Nine percent of my blogs will discuss the paths I cross with people I meet daily. Interaction plays a huge role in my thoughts, because it is during this interaction that a revelation, coincidence or a chance connection occurs.

It is up to the individual what their perception is as to how big or small the world is. I personally think that the world is small, and the chance meetings we have are more than coincidental. I believe there is a reason, a message to be transmitted and/or a lesson to be learned with each and every one. We cannot always know or decipher the reason; and perhaps it is because the person that we spoke to, smiled at or complimented simply needed to hear some words of encourgement or something to uplift them.

As I sat on the train on my way home a couple of weeks ago, I sat back and began listening to my ipod. A co-worker of mine had just uploaded some new songs for me, and named the playlist, "Train Ride Home." So I began listening, smiling at some of the retro selections he had picked for my listening pleasure, including 'Get By' by Talib Kweli. When Miles Davis' version of 'So What' came on, I relaxed even more and started looking around. I noticed a young black girl, probably about seventeen or eighteen, sitting in the row across from me. She was holding a little girl, who was asleep in her arms. The little girl looked to be no older than two. There was a large shopping bag in the seat next to her, and a suitcase in front of her. I stared at her for a minute, because of the expression on her face. It held so much pain! My heart began to ache for her, and all kinds of thoughts went through my mind. Without a doubt she was a teen mother, but the sadness in her eyes held something that told a monumental tale, and I was sure that the precious little sleeping girl she held had something to do with it.

I said a prayer for her, and asked God to use me to help her in some kind of way. God does not play. When you ask for something, you better be prepared to do what he tells you.

Something told me to put away my ipod, so I did, and I pulled out my laptop. About 7 minutes after my feeble prayer, the girl waved her hand at me, and said, "Ma'm,' can I plug my cell phone into your laptop for a few minutes to charge it? My phone is dead. I have a USB port."

I jumped on it. Nodding my head, I said, "Why don't I sit beside you? Then that way, I can work and you can hold onto your phone." She moved her bags, and about ten minutes later she revealed the reasons for her disposition: a one night stand with a boy she met at a party; teen pregnancy, high school dropout, county aide recipient. It was sad, and now I understood her pain. What was worse was that now that the distant father was paying child support, the family wanted to spend time with the little girl. So she was taking her daughter to strangers for the first time. It made my heart ache for the child, because her plan was to leave her there with them for the weekend. She and the father had minimum contact, but it was what he wanted.

I asked her what was she going to do with her free time. She said she didn't know, but she was thinking about looking for a job. She was in a state-funded return-to-work program and was learning new skills. I told her about a couple of schools that had three-month nursing assistant programs, and told her that if she was able to get in one, once she finished I would try to help her find a job.

I gave her my office number and asked her to call me. Before I disembarked, she smiled, and even laughed at something silly I said. Her smile spoke volumes. I hope she will call. I want to help, even if it is to simply point her in the direction of some resources that will prevent her and her daughter from contributing to urban Los Angeles' growing statistics of single unwed mothers. And if she doesn't call, its okay. God heard my prayer as he always does, and through Him I hope I planted a seed of some hope or encouragement.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Crossing Paths

Have you ever gone on vacation to another state or country and run into someone you know? How amazing is it in this big world to live in California, go another country, decide to skip the requisite package tour and instead visit an out of the way dive and run into someone you went to school or college with or worked with years ago? Odd, but it has happened.
One Friday afternoon I exited my commuter train, sat down in the shade on a bus stop in the charming and quaint suburban town of Claremont, California to wait for my ride. In California language, it was a perfect day. The breeze was warm, and the sun threw hints of summer lingering on my face, even though it was the first day of October. By my estimation, it was eighty degrees. The weather and the surroundings were so lovely that I selfishly wished on my husband’s delay so that I could have more time to enjoy it.
A band was setting up for a free jazz concert at the depot, and every one that passed me slowed down enough to exchange pleasantries.
At the train depot in Claremont, the park like area surroundings encompassed the equivalent of approximately an acre to which there were four black wrought iron benches placed roughly twenty to fifty feet apart.

I sat down on one bench to face the band and watch them for a while as they performed mike checks and tuned instruments. When I decided to read, I moved over to another vacant bench located closer to the street and facing a small parking lot. About fifteen minutes into my reading, a pleasant looking woman, mid fifties, with a cast on her left arm came walking by and sat down on my bench on the other end.
We nodded and spoke, and she told me she had caught an earlier than usual train home and was waiting for her husband. I revealed that I too had caught an earlier train home, and had about an hour wait but I didn’t mind because the weather was so nice.
We continued talking, sharing our lengthy commuter trek stories but both agreeing that it was worth it for the work we performed. She asked me where I worked, and I told her. She told me she used to work for a company with a similar name. When I told her my company had merged with her company, she told me she ran that company for several years and began to name some of my coworkers.
When her ride drove up, she walked to the car, then came back to talk to me again, asking about several other former coworkers and people I might know. We exchanged names and waved goodbye.
When I think of that day, I wonder about the amazement of coincidences and the events that lead up to those events that lead up to those events. She'd caught an earlier than usual train home from Van Nuys, a city approximately 100 miles away from where we were sitting. I had caught an earlier train home and instead of exiting at my normal station about another two miles away, I'd stopped here to wait for my ride, deciding to disembark in Claremont because of the park like atmosphere.
One woman she asked about in particular was a resident I very rarely saw, usually just once a month. Remarkably, I had run into her the day before, and we talked for just minutes, but enough for her memory and our conversation to be indelibly stamped in my mind.
I also thought it to be interesting that usually when people see someone reading a book, they speak and keep on moving, not insist on a conversation. And it wasn’t that she insisted, it was that I believe she saw me and felt a connection to the point where she felt drawn to make conversation. The mystery is that I will probably never know what the connection was. Here you have a fifty to sixty year old white woman in a predominately white town sitting on a bus bench waiting on for her husband, and a forty something black woman with wild hair whipped up by the wind waiting for her man.
For the fifteen minutes we talked, we became transitory friends, laughing, appreciating the weather, life and complimenting the people we'd discovered that we jointly knew. We also discovered that we'd both been invited to the same retirement party earlier that year for a mutual coworker and we both had declined for various reasons. I wonder if we had attended that retirement party, would we have been introduced? Met? Crossed paths and enjoyed a polite conversation as we did on that Friday afternoon at the train depot? Probably not, because of the circumstances that threw us together.
As of the last census, there were 33 million people living and working in California. In the county of Los Angeles, there are nearly 11 million people. In the city of Van Nuys there are approximately 46,000, and in the city of Claremont there are about 36,000.

For in life, I believe there are no coincidences; just the happenstance that, regardless of the population or the location, a series, or chain of events will always cause people to cross paths in some way, shape fashion or form wherever they go.

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