THE TRAIN STATION
One early summer morning, I decided to spend the day with my mom. It was near her birthday, so I wanted to do something extra-special with her. My mom is older and has always lived a pretty routine kind of life. She doesn't drive and has not experienced a lot of things that this world has to offer.
My mom always gets so excited when I call her to tell her that I'd like to take her out. I don't even have to say where we are going. I just tell her to be ready at such and such a time, and she gives me a hearty, "I'll be ready." Come to think of it, I really should try to take my mom out more often.
Well, for this little excursion, I decided that a train trip would be fun. I figured that mom and I would go down to Union Station, catch the Amtrak, and make a day of it down in San Juan Capistrano. I figured that once we got to Capistrano, we could find a nice spot to have lunch, browse in the antique shops, and maybe even catch a movie. But even more important than what we would do once we got to Capistrano, first we would get a chance to enjoy that train ride just getting there!
I must say that I love riding trains. There is something neat about hearing the conductor say, "All aboard." And once you are on the train, there is the luxury of just kicking back and enjoying the scenery as you make your way to your ultimate destination.
And what is almost as exciting as getting on the train, is just being at Union Station. You arrive at the train station, and there are people bustling all around you, coming and going to parts unknown. If you have never been there, Union Station is reminiscent of days gone by. There you will find deep, comfortable leather seats and art deco designed walls and ornate ceilings. I could probably spend a good part of the day just enjoying Union Station itself. It is just that special.
Well, back to me and my mom. We arrived at the train station, and I purchased our one-way tickets to Capistrano. See, I didn't know how long we would be gone, so I decided to just buy our return tickets in Capistrano once we were finished exploring the city.
So after procuring the tickets, we sat in those comfy chairs in the Union Station seating area and just waited for the conductor to say those magic words. I was all ready for the fun ahead. I had my camera full of film, I had my purse full of spending change, and I had our train tickets in hand. So my mom and I sat and people watched for a bit, and then we heard the words we were waiting for: "All aboard."
We hurriedly got up out of our seats and went over to queue up to get on the train. We wanted to be the first on board, if we could. Well, nowadays my mom just does not walk as fast as she used to. So we didn't quite make it to the front of the line. So we were standing there, moving forward as the passengers ahead of us made their way on the train.
Then as we were standing there, a woman came up to me. She said to me, "Excuse me. You left this in the seat." She was a woman who had been sitting about ten feet across from me when we were sitting in the waiting area. She was holding in her hand my purse. At that moment I realized that in all of the excitement, I had gotten up and left my purse in the seat that I was waiting in. I guess that because I had my camera on my shoulder, I didn't realize that I was missing something.
I told the woman, "Oh, thank you," and reached out and took my purse. Then she walked back to the waiting area, and I got back in my place in line.
So many thoughts were going through my head as I stood there after the woman had walked away. I thought, "What if a dishonest person had found my purse?" "How would my mom and I have gotten home from Capistrano?" For, you see, there is no telling when I would have finally realized that I didn't have my purse with me. And I didn't have any money on me other than what I had in my purse. We had a one-way ticket to Capistrano. How would we have paid for the tickets home? Inside of my purse were my car keys, house keys, checkbook, credit cards, and $80.00 cash. Because of my absentmindedness, all of these things could have fallen into the hands of anyone!
As all of these thoughts raced through my head, I thought, "Saying 'thank you' isn't enough. I must go and offer that woman a small reward." So I took out a $20.00 bill and stepped out of line and walked over to where the woman was sitting.
As I approached her, I said to her, "Please let me reward you for being so honest and returning to me my purse," and I tried to hand her the money.
The woman shook her head "no," held up her hand palm forward in a stop position, and said to me, "A person shouldn't be rewarded just for doing what's right."
I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing. What a beautiful person I was standing in front of. Again her words rang in my head. "A person shouldn't be rewarded just for doing what's right." A simple statement, but also almost profound.
I then said to her, "Well, can I at least give you a hug?"
To that she said, "Okay," and I quickly embraced her. Then she sat back down, and I went and got on the train.
All of these things happened a few years ago, but I never forgot that woman or her words. We live in a world where so many folks want to do evil instead of good, a world where people will rob you blind and not think twice of it, a place where the motto of many is "finders keepers, losers weepers." It does my heart good to know that there are still strangers out in the world who want to do good deeds and conduct themselves in an honest fashion just because it is the "right" thing to do.
As Proverbs 11:3 says, "The integrity of the upright shall guide them; but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them." May we all strive to live honestly and with integrity.
And you know what? If in the future anyone ever tries to reward me for an act of honesty on my part, I am not going to take their reward, but instead I will tell them what that woman told me.
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