She was sitting across from me in the train and she seemed to be struggling with some extreme angry emotions. We both had window seats with no other passengers next to either of us, so she was trying to hide her anxiety by keeping her face towards the window. When the conductor stopped by, she turned around and tried to appear relaxed while she handed him the ticket. As soon as he left, I took the risk of intruding by asking politely, “I am going to get a cup of coffee, would you like to get something?” she was startled momentarily, and mechanically answered, “No, Thanks” but before I stood up to leave she smiled and said, “on second thought maybe I should get a cup of coffee too.. black no sugar” as she tried to reach into her purse to get money, I stopped her, “next cup will be on you”
When I was back in my seat, handing her the coffee she said, “you seem to be vaguely familiar, do I know you from some place?” I smiled saying, “I get that a lot”
But as she took a long look at my face she suddenly returned back to her anxious self and said, “yes, you are that speaker .. the.. the preacher from church.. aren’t you?” I shook my head up and down saying with a sheepish smile, “is that good or bad?”
She did not answer, so I softly asked, “You go to St. George’s?”
“I used to” she answered sternly
“Oh, what happened ? did you move?” I asked
She took a long look at my face and as she turned to look through the window again she murmured, “they are all hypocrites .. ” that was not the answer I expected, and certainly I was not ready to challenge her. So she turned again to face me and continued, “you know, nobody cares .. they all pretend that you are so dear and all, but when you need some help they all turn their back and walk away.. Hypocrites.. they only care about the rich and powerful.”
“I am afraid my experience there is quite different. When___” I tried to start but she interrupted , “of course you disagree. you are somebody .. you belong with them.. but me.. me .. I am nobody ..”
“Honestly, I must tell you, I am far less connected than you, however if you think I am so well placed in the church, maybe you can explain this to me” I said gently, “did you try to consult with any of the servants or the priests?”
she did not answer immediately, and turned to watch the green meadows through the window. Then she started to speak, still looking through the window, “I talked to them.. to several ones of them.. they all attacked me and one of them started to call me names.. they all sided with her.. with him.. I mean.. they were all against me !!”
I was shocked… that must be a deeper dispute with several people involved.. Then I ventured a little further than my reasoning would have me do, “I don’t mean to pry, but if I may ask if this was a financial problem or a family problem we are talking about?”
She turned back to face me. Her eyes were wet, but she was holding back the tears. After a few moments, she relaxed and said, “it is about my son!!”
There was a heavy silence for a few moments. Then she started to speak as if she was defending herself against a horrible accusation, ” My husband has a son from his first marriage. I knew that from the beginning .. as long as the boy lived with his mother I did not care.. what I did not know, was how vicious that first wife was. She is real evil. She tried everything she could think of to wreck our marriage as well… but we persevered. I endured unspeakable tricks, treachery and insinuations and even legal maneuvers to destroy my relationship with my husband. We finally prevailed. But that evil woman had a final card up her sleeve. After fighting tooth and nail for custody of her son, she suddenly reversed course, and pushed her son to fall into my lap !!”
When she was silent, I softly asked, “so what does the church have to do with that?”
“you see.. her son is a complete delinquent .. totally out of control after so many years with a mother who cares about nothing but herself and her revenge against me and my husband” she blurted very fast.
“and the church interfered?” I prodded again.
“No.. my husband of course loved his son.. delinquent or not, he wanted to take care of him… and of course they agreed with him.. But who bears the brunt of this transaction ? me.. of course me.. ” she complained.
“and you blame him for that or blame the church ?” I wondered.
“I don’t blame him.. but I had to put my foot down.. my son comes first.. my son needs more care..” she insisted.
“as a father I believe he would love both his sons equally .. he would__” I tried to speak but she interrupted swiftly and angrily, “equally my foot… my son needs more care and I had to make the rules in my house.”
I began slowly to realize the dimensions of the problem in my mind .. yet I had a nagging feeling I could be wrong .. it seemed like the first wife was trying to destroy the second marriage, this lady is trying to get back at her by destroying her child…
“so you feel the father should give more attention to your son .. and somebody in the church disagreed with you ?” I asked gingerly.
“Of course my son must have greater attention .. he .. he is a poor child .. he .. he has down’s syndrome” she said as the tears finally escaped from her eyes, and my heart sank heavily in my chest. I was wrong again. There is another dimension to the problem.
After a moment of silence, I dared to ask, “I take it the other son is healthy?”
“yes, yes he is healthy all right.. the animal.. her son has blonde hair and blue eyes .. and he is the first in his class.” She mumbled.
“But you said he was a delinquent ?” I said hesitatingly
“Yes..” she answered angrily, “he is a criminal .. he thinks he can get away with anything just because he is so handsome and clever !”
When I did not respond, she raised her head irately to me, “you see all of you are hypocrites .. you shall agree with them .. the children must not be penalized for the mistakes of their parents.. this is the mantra everyone was telling me.. you agree with them too.. right ? I told you are all hypocrites”
“Madame, I did not say anything.. ” I was on the defensive.. right where she put me.
I reflected for a while then I tried to speak, “remember that story of St. Makarius and the two sisters who were married to ____” she didn’t let me finish.
“yes, everyone of you keep taunting me with this story .. it is not the same.. they were sisters.. good ladies who loved each other.. not like this wicked witch trying to destroy my marriage..”
As I tried to interject, she stopped me again, ” and neither of them had a child with down’s syndrome like my son!”
“But.. please forgive me.. that is not the moral of the story________” I tried to speak again.
“moral or not .. all this is hypothetical .. it is not reality.. I am the one who has to be burned by caring for her son to grow up a happy man while my son grows up miserable and defenseless”
“No.. Not all..” I insisted to speak, “the fact is that these children.. both of them.. and even all of us.. are children of God. They deserve our love and our caring .. all our love and all our caring.. we cannot care for one at the expense of the other.. regardless of the mistakes committed by the parents or anybody else.. God loved us even when we are so sinful and we.. we are all delinquent .. nobody is without sin… you and I included. God said that He would judge us the same way we judge others.. if we deem somebody guilty or unforgivable.. we are in fact condemning ourselves to the same fate.”
“Look what she had done____” she tried to object half heartedly.
“she is going to face the same judge we face.. I don’t have to worry what should happen to her then, I should be concerned with what shall happen to me.. you think that you are the one taking care of your own son? God feeds the whole world every morning .. you cannot even take care of yourself without His help .. let alone taking care of your family.”
She was silent as she wiped her tears. So I was encouraged to continue, “you see, that shall be the difference between you and her.. you say she was evil.. you are trying to be equally evil? So why are you condemning her? But if you behave wisely and handle both sons as if they were your own, you can be really happy.. you would even completely undermine her scheme.. here is an idea for you .. think of it like that.. God loved you and loved your son so he sent this other child into your life.. as if God gave you a second healthy and beautiful son and gave your son a brother in order to bring balance, love and happiness to the family.. actually her loss is your gain “
She looked at me in a strange kind of bewilderment..
The train stopped at the station.. and she got ready to leave.. before she disappeared in the crowd she mumbled some words I couldn’t hear without looking at me.
And as she left, I thought to myself.. is this why despite my valiant efforts to catch the 9:45 train, I was forced to take this one?