By Rachel Holmes
I’m almost thankful for train strikes. No really, I am.
They’re giving me a daily opportunity to practise all those good things like, grace, patience, forgiveness and compassion, that come so unnaturally to commuters. Every morning before 8am I’ve had more opportunities to be loving and gracious than the rest of the day put together.
Since April last year, industrial action has led to delayed trains, cancelled trains and some days just no trains at all.
When I set out each morning I know there’s no guarantee I’ll fit on the train, let alone get a seat. I generally spend 45 minutes to an hour squished into someone’s armpit, strengthening my core muscles trying to not fall over and straining my arms trying to hold on to my laptop and lunch.
And this could be after I’ve spent an hour on a freezing train platform trying and failing to cram onto a train.
I know what you’re thinking – your train is late, it’s hardly the end of the world, aren’t you overacting just a little.
Well YOU WEREN’T THERE. YOU DON’T KNOW.
During the past 10 months of train drama, some people have quit their jobs. A few women have taken early maternity leave. Others are spending less time with the families and more on child care as they’re late home so often.
I witness some kind of argument between passengers at least once a week. And my anxiety is through the roof.
Those of us who managed to get a train eventually arrive at work, or back home, tired, grumpy and RAGING AT ANYONE AND EVERYONE.
Which is rather unfortunate for your family, friends and colleagues, who inevitably end up taking the brunt of it.
But enough is enough. After reading Hebrews I realised that maybe if I fixed my eyes on Jesus, I could turn my commute frown upside-down. It’s actually been simpler than I thought.
Rather than claim the rare vacant seat right next to where I’m standing I (sometimes) choose to let others sit down – it may seem small but actually, having a seat makes all the difference to your journey.
Instead of pushing and shoving I can choose to get the next train instead.
I can pray for other people in the carriage – chances are they aren’t enjoying the commute either and have a challenging day ahead.
And when I’m feeling brave enough I can even make eye contact and smile at someone else witnessing the struggle.
Those not of London may find that strange, but breaking the First Commandment of Commuting (“Thou shalt not acknowledge thy fellow passengers”) is not an easy thing to do, even when you’re reading their newspaper.
The Serenity Prayer is my new mantra. There really are some things you can’t change or control. It’s given me a small insight into what it’s like when your voice is not heard and you’re powerless to change a situation. Which has renewed my motivation to support those whose voices are ignored or silenced.
I’ve realised a few other things I can do, too.
Text encouragement to a friend (on the days I have space enough to move my arms and reach my phone).
Leave that negativity on the platform and not moan about my journey when I get to work/home, there’s no need to drag it around the rest of the day.
Pray for people whose biggest challenge of the morning isn’t getting to work, it’s finding strength to overcome mental and physical challenges involved in just getting out of bed.
Forgive the rail bosses and union representatives who can’t seem to reach an agreement.
Forgive friends/colleagues/family who make jokes and flippant comments about the strikes when they JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.
All in all, train strikes are giving me an opportunity to grow in love and patience and all things good. I’d be lying if I said I’m enjoying it. I’d be lying if I said it was easy. But here’s to perseverance and character building.