Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kindness Matters: A Conversation

My husband has our car for the day, so I have packed up our kids and all of our things for the day into the stroller - the Ladybug riding in the seat and Little G standing on the "scooter". We are headed to the Boston Children's Museum.  It opens at 10, but if we take the next train, we won't get there until close to 11 and then we won't have significant time to do all of the things I know Little G will want to do.  So we leave early and walk in the significantly cold morning the .7 miles to the train station.

We are standing and waiting on the only platform that accommodates strollers/wheelchairs and Little G is throwing all of the weight of his 3.5 year-old status at me this morning and refusing to wear his hat or mittens, yet remaining very upset about the cold.  Because he is whining and lets out a yell at me, I tell him that if it happens again, we are going home and he expresses his frustration at that statement, but settles down.  The train pulls up to the platform and we bustle onto the car.

A well-dressed, older businessman seated at the door into the car touches my arm and says brusquely, "this is the quiet car."

I respond, "I know".

A few months ago they designated the car closest to the engine a quiet car.  Passengers are asked to silence cell phones, speak in hushed voices and turn down the volume on electronic devices.

The man is persistant, "you can not be here".

"Why?", I ask.

"They can't be in here", he sneers, pointing at Little G and the Ladybug.

"They'll be fine", I assure him, pointedly.  Passengers are waiting behind me to board.  Little G has started up the aisle that I know I don't fit down with the stroller.  People are stealing glances at us from their SmartPhones.

"I saw him on the platform.  He can't be quiet", he continues to sneer, gesturing to Little G.

"You, have no idea if he can be quiet or not," I say curtly, my face starting to flush. "This conversation is over."

I enter the car further and have to call Little G back towards me.  A woman gets up so that we can sit next to the window and the Ladybug can stay in her stroller.  We are one seat away from the angry man.

"Little G," I ask, whispering,  "The man who was speaking to mommy isn't acting nicely and he doesn't think that you can be quiet on the train.  But I KNOW you can be quiet on the train.  Let's see if we can prove that man wrong."

I ask him if he'd like a granola bar.  He does.  I locate one in our bag and give the Ladybug 1/4 of it to keep her happy and I say a little prayer that we make it to South Station.

The conductor stops by to collect our fare and tells me that the man has no right to tell us we can't be there.  Only she has the authority to do that and there's no room elsewhere for a stroller, so we're fine. She apologizes that the people in the quiet car tend to jump on others.

We ride into the city and not one word is said from my 3.5-year-old son; not a peep is made from my 14 month old daughter - for the entirety of the train ride until we start to pull in to Back Bay.  Little G whispers as we pull into the station, "Mommy, why was that man talking mean to you?"

"Little G, that man might be having a tough morning, or he might not be feeling well.  Something in his heart might not feel right so he wasn't acting kindly.  And that is ok.  We can ask God to guard his heart and comfort him.  And we can forgive him for not being nice."  He goes back to staring out the window.

As the train stops at Back Bay, the majority of the passengers leave the train.  One by one, they pass Little G and the Ladybug and I smile at us.  A woman says, "don't let him ruin your day".  She waves to us through the window from the platform as she continues on her way.

The train continues on to its last stop.  It is only the man and us at this end of the car.  As we pull into the station, he gets up and we start to gather our things.  I look in his direction and say, "Sir?"

Nothing.  He faces the door pretending he can't hear me.

So I continue.

"Sir, I know you can hear me and it is important for my children to hear me say this:  we forgive you and hope your day gets better.  I hope that you'll remember this next time."

He can not leave the train fast enough.  Little G, the Ladybug and I wait for the remainder of the passengers to exit the car.  The conductor stops by again to apologize and we head out into the cold to the Children's Museum.


  1. You handled that A LOT better than I could ever have. Big kudos to you!

  2. Full disclosure: I seethed inwardly onthe silence for at least three stops before I thought to pray for myself to be released from being so pissed off. I mean, he TOUCHED me!

  3. E @ Oh! ApostropheThu Dec 20, 06:01:00 PM

    Ohhh I am so impressed you thought of the perfect words to say AT the time. I might have thought of words half as good an hour later!

  4. well, I am weeping. This is so beautiful--and you know, I just had a very long conversation with a mama today about the bottom line is that we need to teach our children kindness in every minute. You have embodied Kindness to your children, and to all of us. Thank you, Miriam. Thank you.

  5. Such an amazing testament to you that you could use this as a teachable moment. Lovely.

  6. that is SO awesome. you go, mama.

  7. OMG, this is such a good post. Yes, you handled this so beautifully! I admire your strength and courage to stand up with grace in the face of this bully. I'm a mother of two young women, ages 17 and 21. We traveled a lot across their young lives and this post brings back so many good and CHALLENGING memories (sorry for the caps--I wanted to use italics). Hats off to the woman who gave you the verbal pat on the back. We women and children-loving folk need to stick together.

  8. I can't believe I am so late to the game and just reading this. You are an amazing mama. And person. I'm hopeful the man never forgets this experience and your forgiveness. I hope G never forgets how his mama didn't back down, and was so loving and forgiving.