The Independent Newsweekly
|January 11, 2005||
Vol. 2, No. 34
Geraldine Hawkes chairs the Commission for Australian Catholic Women. She also coordinates St Paul's City Ministry, an ecumenical centre that works with business people to bring ethics alive in boardrooms and workplaces across South Australia.
The woman and I continued our small talk and when the train arrived, she invited me to sit with her and her husband. I hesitated for a moment, thinking of my 20 minutes of catch up time, and then sat down in the seats she found for us. Her husband sat by the window and seemed not to notice us.
Trains of thought ... Part III
By Geraldine Hawkes
ADELAIDE, Australia -- I always enjoy my train journey to work -- a 20 minute trip to the city and time where I can choose to read, prepare papers for the day, reflect or just do nothing and gaze out of the window.
Suddenly a couple appeared at my elbow. I noticed that they had just come across the platform from the train which had arrived a few moments ago and was now continuing on its journey north. I wondered if they had taken a train traveling in the wrong direction and were now seeking the "correct" one. The woman smiled at me and I nodded hello. She commented on the kangaroos feeding in the paddock across the railway line and I explained that the local factory had set up a reserve for them within the factory grounds and that they were a great attraction for local children and commuters.
I saw that she had her arm linked though her partner's arm and he was facing the other way, watching intently up the line for the city bound train. The woman and I continued our small talk and when the train arrived, she invited me to sit with her and her husband. I hesitated for a moment, thinking of my 20 minutes of catch up time, and then sat down in the seats she found for us. Her husband sat by the window and seemed not to notice us.
The woman told me that he had had an industrial accident four years ago and now could do nothing for himself. He had the mental age of a three-year old, she said. She had changed her work after the accident and was now a cleaner, normally working six days a week. Her early morning and late afternoon cleaning work meant that she could make a small income for the two of them without leaving him on his own for long periods. And on her day off each week they traveled across the metropolitan railway, visiting a variety of places and meeting different people. "Look," she said, "you can see how much he enjoys this." His eyes were sparkling and his gestures animated as he gazed out the window watching for passing trains - goods and passenger, local and inter-state. Her arm remained tightly linked through his and she glanced affectionately at him from time to time, while he seemed unaware of her presence. "He's always enjoyed trains and now they're his only interest," she explained. Their next train would take them to a beachside suburb and they'd have their packed picnic lunch there. She'd chosen food that would enable her to feed him easily and she showed me the little drink-beaker with its spill proof lid. After all he could do nothing for himself.
I looked again at the couple on the train and when we arrived at our station, we said goodbye to one another. As I watched the woman gently guide her husband towards their next train, I felt gratitude for the encounter and a deeper appreciation for the relationships and gifts which can come alive in others through people whom we so often describe -- and frequently dismiss -- as being able to do nothing.
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