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A lesson on the train

This past Sunday I was on the train back from Southland shopping mall with my almost 9 year old daughter. When we entered the train cabin I noticed 2 middle aged men at the back of the cabin. The men were dressed in some casual clothing that seemed needed a clean, they had some overgrown facial hair and were wearing caps. They each had a bike with them and a couple of bags of stuff in tow, this scene may be familiar to you.

We had got some new toys at Kmart which we opened on the train and we began to check them out and play with them until the 2 fellows started to become a bit rowdy. They seemed to be drug or alcohol affected.

They started talking loudly and using some profanity with each other about other passengers and people they were noticing through the windows. At some point while rummaging through their bags one of them began to throw little things across the train cabin. My daughter is a very curious little one and was staring at them trying to understand what was going on with this unexpected situation. She began to hold on to me and I helped her feel safe by letting her know that she’s with me and that we’re safe together. I explained to her that I think they aren't feeling well.

During one of their outbursts of profanity while chatting loudly with each other, one of the men noticed that there was a little girl on the train. His friend told him loudly "there's a young girl on the train, watch your language!" The man walked closer to us and began to softly apologize to us for his choice of words. I told him thank you. My daughter didn’t quite understand what he wanted from me, so I explained to her that he was saying sorry for using bad words. A few moments later the man returned to us with a bag of lollies and offered my daughter some lollies, but we politely declined the kind offer and thanked him for his kindness.

A few minutes later one of them turns to me and asked me "what's your nationality?" I tell him "I'm born and raised here, but I'm also Jewish" he looks at me and says "oh I thought so - you're wearing one of those Jewish caps but I didn't want to assume anything as that may be rude. They then start telling us about how they appreciate Jewish people and have had some of their best experiences working in the construction industry with Jewish employers, who they tell us were always so kind to them.

We were reaching our stop at Caulfield station. While we stood up to get ready to leave the train I noticed that they too were leaving the train at our stop, from the other side of the cabin. As we left the train and made our way through the platform, the two guys started loudly wishing us a good day and blessing us.

My daughter looked up at me and wanted to understand what was happening. She asked me why they are saying goodbye to us and wishing us well, we are strangers to them after all.

I explained to her that I think what may have happened is that they may not be used to people being nice to them in public, as they are loud and clearly not feeling well some people may think they are bad and scary people, but in reality they are good and kind people who don't want to hurt anyone, they are just not feeling well today.

I went on to explain to her that maybe they really appreciated that we were kind to them and treated them like every human being deserves to be treated for the gentle and kind person they really are. That we were able to look beyond their rowdy and potentially disturbing behavior and treat them for who they are, good human beings deserving of kindness and respect and in turn they were kind and appreciative to us.

I asked her how she felt about what had just happened, and she told me how she was a bit scared and confused but she also understands that they are not bad people, they are good people who are just not feeling well.

It was a special learning moment for both of us. I was able to teach her that despite someone's behavior that may seem troublesome, they are essentially good people who mean well and are struggling. My daughter was able to teach me something too though. That despite having compassion for others, it can also be a scary and confronting experience.

Next time you experience something similar out in public, try to look past the person's behavior. See them as the human they really are who may be struggling, and if you're also struggling with fear in the moment, try hold space for that too.

Pinny Super

Director and founder

Nefesh Healing Melbourne


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