To the Man on the Train

The streets of Salt Lake City are cold. Not just in the sense of temperature, but spiritually and emotionally cold. They say, though, that cold is really just a lack of heat; a lack of warmth. Fortunately, as I wandered the streets of SLC, I felt warm. The cold was teeming and creeping around me but somehow I managed to resist it.

The day had been one of the most inspirational of my life. The activists radiated warmth. They were motivated and inspired, energetic and determined. I met a refugee from the two decade long civil war in Sudan. His story captivated me, saddened me, and inspired me. I met activists from New Mexico and phoenix and San Francisco and each one was incredible. Welcoming and inspirational. After hours of discussion, idea sharing, and inspiration… hope and love and determination for a better world… I left the amnesty international conference to wander through downtown SLC, injected with warmth.

When it came time to head to a bed for the night I had to ride the train home. I was crashing at my uncle’s house, which sat in one of the outlying suburbs. It was crowded beyond belief on that train; I had never seen any form of public transportation so crowded. My ride was about one half of an hour and I had to stand for the first twenty minutes. Each time the train stopped or started I almost fell over. At this point my warmth was fading through my loneliness and into my obscurity on the train. I was lonely because I was in town solo. There was no one to reflect back on the conference with. It was cold on the train. When I was finally able to sit down you sat down next to me. You were a jovial old man. You looked content. You wondered if I had been at the “game” and I braced myself for some boring sports conversation.

You surprised me though, by simply asking what I had been up to downtown. I told you that I was in town for the amnesty international conference. I saw surprise on your face. You probably saw more on mine too, because I hadn’t expected the average SLCer to know what amnesty international is. The train reached your stop. As you left you shook my hand and gave me the sincerest of looks. I wish I could remember exactly what you said. Something along the lines of “keep it up” or “we need people like you”- referring to my involvement with amnesty international. I wish I could thank you. You probably don’t know how much that meant; it was so simple for you. Just an act of good will to a stranger. Sometimes I need desperately to hear words like that. They help coming from friends, but they are strangely magnified coming from strangers like you. Your words were sincere and deliberate and they infused me once again with warmth- with some kind of hope that I know I needed. I just wanted to tell you. Thanks.

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