I have seen her get on the train countless times. Over laden with a backpack and assorted bags, glasses falling down her nose, a stocking cap on most winter days, all combined making her look much older than her years. She usually comes up top, near where I sit and regardless of how crowded it is, she makes her way thru to the last possible seat – even if it means the little “love seat” at the very end, where anybody who has commuted for any length of time, knows is just for one person and their bags.
For some time I have judged her harshly – due to her sense of entitlement of the last possible seat - even if that entailed making 20 people move and undo their settled commuting areas. Not a glaring at, making comments to some around me, type of judging, but that quiet, deep formed from childhood, glancing judgment.
Did I mention she is black?
Raised in the 60’s it was ingrained in me that people were to be judged by the color of their skin and to some degree that is still deep inside of me.
So this morning when my regular commuting buddy didn’t show up – I settled into the loveseat up top and pulled out my assorted things – MP3, coffee, local paper and I got ready for a nice quiet ride into the city. At the train’s second stop the upstairs became quite full and I was relieved that there would be no more people jostling their way thru, so I could just get down to the business of commuting.
I looked up and saw her excusing herself thru everyone’s space, knowing that the only possible seat available for her was with me - on the loveseat.
She spoke softly to me in accented English, excusing herself and stating that her hands were so cold from distributing pamphlets at the train station for a candidate that she is supporting for President. She went on to say that she almost didn’t make the train – but was glad she did and that she found a seat.
My prejudices started to melt away. She is an American. Her brother and she were born here to Nigerian parents, whose marriage, like many, crumbled when she was very young. Her Nigerian grandmother came to the states and took her, her brother and their Mom back to Nigeria and helped raise them. She shared with me how her grandmother instilled in them that faith, family and education were the most important things in life.
They were raised in poverty, without many of the essentials that we could ever imagine living without. She was thankful though that they had shelter, food, each other and she and her brother were able to attend, because of many sacrifices, a Christian school. After they completed high school the family moved back to the United States, settled in Aurora, and they graduated from colleges, all the while their Mom continued to work and they made due.
She told me rich, faith-filled stories on our commute down this morning. How God has been so good to her and her family and she encouraged me to continue to pray for my immediate and extended family and that we too will be so richly blessed.
The train was pulling into Union when she gently asked me if it would be okay if she gave me her email address – so that we could continue our conversations.
As of this morning I have a new friend and she is black.
And I am already richly blessed by her tender spirit and beautiful smiling face.