The past several posts I’ve been walking down memory lane. I can tell you why. I’m working on my next book which will be a collection of stories from my travels. I hope you will enjoy it. Today I take you with me on a journey that took place nearly 37 years ago.
I was embarking on my first overseas trip as an adult. I flew from Atlanta to New York; from New York to Iceland, and from Iceland to Germany. I was met by a couple (whom I had never met) who had instructions to put me on a train bound for Salzburg, Austria. I was led to a compartment with six seats, three on each side. I sat in a middle seat and was told that my reservation would take me all the way to my destination. I was to learn that this was a mistake.
As the train eased forward, my tired body fell in with its rhythm and I dozed off and on. At times the train would stop at stations along the way, letting off some passengers while taking on others. At one such stop, a man opened the door to our compartment. He looked at his ticket, looked at me, and said something in German. I didn’t know a word of what he said, but I sensed it was not good. The man left, but returned with the conductor who also said something to me that I couldn’t understand. “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak German,” I heard my nervous voice speak. The conductor then pointed to me and the aisle outside. I understood the gesture and got up to leave. The conductor took down my two suitcases from the overhead and set them outside. The man with the ticket took my seat. The conductor left. I didn’t know where to go or even how to ask what I should do now, so I sat where I was. I was balancing atop my suitcases, looking into the compartment with six people looking back at me. Awkward!
Suddenly the woman who had sat opposite me stood and left the compartment. I watched her disappear down the aisle. In minutes she returned with the conductor. She motioned for me to get up. I did. The conductor picked up my two cases and we followed the woman. We passed through several carriages until we came to a particular compartment — in the first class section! She opened the door and motioned for me to go inside. I wanted to politely protest, to explain that I couldn’t sit there, but I could not speak the language, so I did as I was gestured to do. I sat in one seat and the woman sat next me. She smiled. I smiled in return. For hours we sat in companionable silence, me dozing off and on while she browsed through a magazine. At one point when the train stopped, the woman stood up. Impulsively I stood, too. The woman motioned no and gestured for me to sit down again. I did. She smiled, waved, and was gone. The conductor never returned and I sat safely for the rest of my journey. I can only deduce that the woman purchased first class tickets for both me and herself. What kindness!
I have experienced many such acts of kindness from strangers coming to my aid in my journeys, and I have had the opportunity of being that stranger to aid someone else. It’s part of the thrill of traveling to new places, and it provides opportunity to, “Be kind to one another…” Ephesians 4:32 The power of kindness cannot be measured.
I was 23, alone, and traveling through a country where I didn’t speak the language, going to a place I had never been, but God had a stranger ready to help. We never need fear when God leads us to unknown places; after all, it is Him who is in the navigator’s seat and, “He knows the way that I take…” Job 23:10