I sank in the rigid seat and pressed the side of my head against the cool window. I closed my eyes and hoped I was making the right decision. With only the clothes on my back and what little cash I had in my wallet, I ran. I changed my name. I dyed my hair, and I left all those people I knew back there.
The scenery whizzed past me. It was intoxicating to watch yet sickening. I was mesmerized and shaken at the same time. I closed my eyes and prayed the train would go faster and get me further away. My heart raced in my chest and throat. I held back tears. It was hard to swallow because of the lump in my throat and my mouth was dry. So dry. I dug through my purse, hopeful for a cough drop or a stick of gum. Nothing.
The lady sitting across from me shifted in her seat. Was she avoiding eye contact with me? I must look awful. She began to rummage through her designer backpack and so I was able to size her up a bit. She was dressed in a burgundy paisley patterned shirt with 3/4 sleeves and nicely pressed jeans. Matching jewelry made her even more stylish. Her dishwater blond hair was long, wavy and laced with streaks of silver. She was everything I wasn’t. Clean, kept, and together. She found what she was looking for and held it out toward me. “I have some tic-tacs.” She offered me some. Did she catch me staring at her?
I accepted. “Thanks.” I took the 5 small white oblong mints in my hand. I put one in my mouth and the others in my pocket since I didn’t know where my next meal would come from. I closed my eyes again as the spicy wintergreen flavors melted and soothed my cotton mouth and lumpy throat. With each swallow I could feel my body relax. I dozed off.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined when I prayed to have more faith and be bold in my obedience to the Holy Spirit would He have me get on a train!
Get on the train, Beth.
I could hear the Holy Spirit gently nudge me toward the four trains stopped adjacent to the platform outside the station. Which train. God? There must be 4 leaving the station at the same time or within minutes of each other. How am I supposed to know which one?
Train #4 box seat #7.
Wow! Okay. That’s specific. I purchased my ticket and found my seat on train #4. I sat there not knowing what I was doing or why I was here, but I wanted to follow God blindly and here I was. Where am I even going? I didn’t even look! I pulled the ticket out of my pocket and turned it over in my hand. Cedar City, Utah? Okay. That’s an 8-hour drive by car. My family vacationed there many times.
The train was leaving the station in 10 minutes. Box car #7 was empty except for me. Would I be traveling alone? I was certain the reason I was getting on the train was for an individual, not the destination, but maybe I heard the Holy Spirit wrong?
The car door clanked open and in walked a small framed young woman. I couldn’t help but notice she looked exhausted. Her mousy red hair was secured in a lose ponytail at the nape of her neck. Small strands danced around her red rimmed eyes. She wore a thin jacket and well-worn jeans. Her tennis shoes had seen better days. She carried a bag I would only assume was her purse and nothing else.
She collapsed in the seat across from me and leaned against the window and closed her eyes as the train began to move. I couldn’t help but stare. Her face was thin and freckled. She looked like she hadn’t bathed in days. Her eyes opened and I turned away pretending to dig through my backpack. Is she why I’m on this train, God? I found some tik-tacs and offered her some. She extended her dirty hand, and I emptied the container into it. Five tic-tacs is all I gave her, and she pocketed most of them like it was a secret treasure. My heart sank as I watched her sleep. What’s her story, God? What’s my mission?
I opened my backpack and assessed my belongings. I knew God had me pack two sets of winter clothing for a reason. I pulled out a blue flannel shirt. It was wrinkled from being stuffed into my backpack, but it will have to do. I pulled out a charcoal colored down jacket – it was my favorite one, but I felt compelled to give it to her. I had matching gloves and hat and I folded them all neatly and laid them on the seat next to her. I remembered I had two crips $100 bills and I folded them in four and slipped them into the left jacket pocket along with a handwritten note and zipped it closed.
I awoke with a start. The train was stopping. It was dark outside. The sky had so many stars. It was breathtaking. I must have slept the whole way. Odd, I hadn’t slept that long, that sound, in months. My body was stiff, but my mind was clear. I rolled my shoulders back and tilted my head from side to side. I needed to loosen up. I had no idea what my night was going to entail, and I needed to be ready. The seat across from me was empty. I wonder if she got off on an earlier stop. I rubbed my arms for warmth. It was chilly in here; it must be freezing outside. I placed my hand on the window, something my dad taught me to do when assessing the temperature outside. It was cold.
I stood. Stretched some more. I opened the box car door, and a waif of cold air filled my lungs. It was colder in the hall than in my box car. I turned for my purse and noticed a pile of clothes next to where I was sitting. I scanned the hall again. No one in sight. I lifted the flannel shirt and rubbed its soft fabric against my face. It’s so soft. I removed my thin jacket and stuffed it into my purse, not before I popped another tic-tac in my mouth. I poured myself into the flannel. The jacket was soft too. It fit like a glove. I zipped it up and could feel my insides warm. I placed the hat on my head and stuffed the gloves into the pockets. Well, the right one went in just fine, but the left pocket was zipped shut. I unzipped it and pulled out a folded piece of paper. As I began to unfold it, my heart started to race. I could see money peeking out from behind the paper. My hands shook and tears threatened. The lump in my throat was back. Two hundred dollars? What was this? Who would do this? Why? I read the note, “Not sure what your plans are, but I thought you could use some warm clothes. Also, there is a cute little Inn on South 100 West, it’s a bed and breakfast too. My family stayed there many times while on vacation. Hope this helps. Good luck to you on your journey. I will be praying for you. Beth.” I couldn’t hold back the tears. It was a steady stream now. Is this how your people work, God?
I arose early as my ticket was a roundtrip, and the next train departs at 6:00 a.m. I grabbed a muffin and a coffee from the Inn continental breakfast and headed to the station. My heart was full. This was fun. I couldn’t believe I packed a bag with random items, bought a random ticket for an 8-hour train ride with an unknown destination, helped a complete stranger, and thought it was fun! And I made it back home before my husband returned from his business trip! But it wasn’t random, was it God? Will our paths ever cross again?
No one would believe that I did this. Can this be our secret, God? I feel like a 007 agent.
I slept in as long as my body would allow. 9:10 a.m. Wow! I haven’t slept like that in ages. I breathed in the fresh scent of bleached fabric as I buried my face in the fluffy pillow. I rolled over bringing the covers with me. I slipped out of bed and ached for a hot shower.
I made it downstairs before breakfast was put away. Savoring every bite of homemade biscuits and sausage gravy. I cleaned my plate. I would have licked the gravy off the plate, too, but was afraid that might not go well. I reached for my purse when the front desk clerk approached.
“Your bill was paid in full last night. We didn’t make the connection until this morning. Sorry for the inconvenience.” He handed me an envelope. “Also, your friend asked that we make you a to-go-bag for your travels.” He handed me a folded down paper bag. My friend?
“Thank you.” I had no idea what he was talking about, but I was not about to pass on free food. I could smell the aroma through the bag. My mouth was salivating. I waited for him to leave before opening it. Ham and Swiss on rye. It was loaded with tomato, pickle, lettuce and bean sprouts. I folded it back down and longed-for lunch already. I tucked it into my purse for safe keeping.
I turned to the envelope. I scanned the room. It was empty. I opened the envelope. To my surprise, there was a copy of my bill for my room paid in full. I had paid in cash last night, so I was confused. I removed the bill and behind it was my two $100 bills. I scanned the room again. Was this a joke? Was I being pranked?
I stuffed the envelope of money into my purse. Zipped it closed and left before they could ask for it back. I had a good night sleep, a hot shower, a full belly and $200. It was going to be a good day. Thank you, God. Will I ever get to meet Beth again?