Photo and Story
Elizabeth Vierra Hall
It was the first breezy, chilly 47-degree night of the season, mid-November at a train station in a very small town in California. Normally 47 degrees isn’t so bad, but when it’s the first of the season after the warm California temperatures, it can take a while for the body to acclimate. I was there sending off my daughter from her shortened, 23-hour visit. As my daughter was making her way to one of the open train cars, an elderly woman had stepped off with an Amtrak employee. The woman was crying and clearly hobbling in pain alongside the employee. Observing, I thought it odd that no help was given in the way of a wheelchair, or other relief assistance. As my attention was teetering back and forth from the elderly woman clearly needing assistance to watching for my daughter at one of the window seats as I like to see her and wave one last goodbye for the night, the woman, now left alone, was wailing even louder. I’m thinking that anytime now her ride would be here to pick her up as I’m watching and waving to my daughter.
As the train slowly pulled away out of the station, the woman began to wail in pain even louder; bent over the railing alongside the walkway between the tracks and the parking lot. I turned around to observe if anyone was coming for the woman. I watched as Amtrak staff went back inside the office, people catch their connecting buses, and families helping to load their loved ones in their vehicles. Still no one came for this woman. It was only her and I …at 7:50 p.m., dark night, vacant parking lot except for a few overnight parked vehicles. As I continued to look around for signs of anyone coming for her, I walked up slowly so as not to startle her and ask if there was anything I could do for her. She proceeded to catch her breath just enough to tell me that she didn’t want to bother me and said she called her son to pick her up; he had forgotten. She kept telling me I didn’t have to stay and I told her there was no way I was leaving her alone out here in the dark. I offered to walk her over to a nearby bench, but she didn’t want to move. She said it would take too much energy and would hurt, so I rubbed her back as she hunched over the railing and talked to her to see if it would help calm her. All I could think of was how could anyone be so neglectful to allow this woman to be out in the cold, dark night, alone. As she began to calm, she told me that she had just fallen on the knee that she is supposed to have surgery on, and, that she just found out that she is VERY, VERY sick. “I just don’t need all this right now!” she told me. “It’s just too much!” and then began to break down again with uncontrollable sobbing. With each vehicle that past by she’d say, “Here’s my son”…but it wasn’t, and as each car drove by that wasn’t her son, she cried. Time passed and it was getting more breezy and colder. Where is this son?
Finally her son drove in. Did he rush to her aid? No. I watched as he 1) parked far away from her, 2) took time to slowly clean out his vehicle, 3) was clearly in no hurry to look around for her. Really? I just couldn’t take it any longer, so I called out as I walked part way to his vehicle, “Are you here to pick up your mother?” “Yeah”, he said as if it were a bother. “She’s over here!” I had to direct him over. She thanked me over and over for staying with her and said it’ll be okay and that I could go. I cried all the way home. It was such an emotional experience. Even though her son was there, I had to wonder if she really would be alright. My heart was tugged with all sorts of emotions. Clearly, emotion for her well-being, but there seemed to be something else. What was it? Even a few hours later, I was still crying.
After playing the night’s events over and over in my mind, it hit me, and it was two-fold. The first was that fact that in today’s society people are so unaware of the needs of others even when it’s crying out right in front of you! How robotic is our society? She was crying loud enough that everyone heard, yet she was ignored. No one even approached her. My heart felt cruelty for mankind. I mean, just imagine if that woman were you or worse, your mother? Can you imagine how much pain and hopelessness she was feeling on that cold, dark night? Alone. It’s just so upsetting.
And second, what I still can’t seem to put down into words, must be the heart’s emotion to helping someone in such distraught, especially when no one else would; making a difference in someone else’s life. Even now, almost two months later and tears in my eyes, I still can’t put it into words that would make you feel what the heart feels. And you know what? I think, no, I believe, that there is a reason and a purpose for that. It is an emotion that is best felt; only felt, with the heart. It’s a gift. A gift that I was given to show love, faith in humanity; a purpose for our life on earth and that feeling that comes with it all wrapped up in one overpowering emotion never to be fully explained in simple words.
Let’s be thankful for our good health and for our families and friends that care enough to make sure we are safe to and from our destinations; for not everyone is as fortunate. Pray for the less fortunate. 💔