Last night I was supposed to catch an earlier train home. I was visiting a friend in hospital and had booked a cab for 7:45. It didn't arrive and I had to call another.
The cabbie that picked me up was quiet at first and then I asked him how he was. He was confused and asked if I knew him. I said I didn't and he told me that his son was in the mental health unit of the hospital and wondered if I was staff.
And then began a very sad story. One about children failed by the system. A parent's dread and worry. The heartbreaking moment when you realise you can't save your child from harm, no matter what you do.
I just listened. Missed a train. Ignored multiple phone calls. I sat in his cab for 25 minutes while he talked.
Wouldn't it be a great ending to say that he was unburdened and was deeply grateful for my acute listening skills? The reality is that I have no idea if he was any better for the talking. But it doesn't matter. Listening and offering my presence was all I could do. All I did do.
That was my lesson yesterday. Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time to be there for someone. The trick is to be there. Present in the moment and not caught up in your own agenda. Its a hard thing for me in the rush rush of my day to day life and I bet I miss a lot of these moments on a daily basis. I am glad I caught this one though.
Guess I wasn't supposed to catch that train anyway.
While waiting for the later train, I was speaking to two young boys. When they realised I was American, they asked if I'd ever been mugged at gunpoint. Nice to see that the American media is so effective in portraying the US as a violent gang-ridden country.