when we boarded our austrian railway train in munich bound for bologna and from there to rome, we were full of gratitude to the german student who had gotten us to the platform and to an austrian train employee who had shown us to the correct car. the car had few empty seats; our reserved seats were the only empty ones that we saw. unfortunately they were at the opposite end of the car, and we had three large bags, one large backpack, and four small bags to find places to stow. i plodded through the car with my backpack looking for some place to park the large bags, while the other three members of our group waited with the bags. as i came to our seats, i slipped my backpack off and located an overhead storage rack for it. i began to lift my heavy back up over my head, and immediately a young man seated in the area of our seats hopped up and assisted me, smiling all the while. i thanked him and looked for places for our other bags. once i found spots, i went back to the far end of the car, and we began the tedious process of lugging all the remaining luggage to the few empty spots available for them.
during this process the train pulled away from the platform. with all the luggage stowed, we settled into our seats to enjoy the view. what a view it was! there were beautiful villages, green fields and forests, mountains, rivers. for us, scenes of picture-perfect magnificence were constantly before us as we gazed out the train windows, taking photos like mad. within an hour, we realized that we were starving and the two males in the group set off to look for a dining car. when we returned to our seats after our successful expedition, our wives were chatting with the young man who had helped me with my backpack.
he was a single fellow from romania who lived in germany. his parents were still in romania, and he was on his way to meet them at his sister's home in turin. he told his that they were only able to get together once a year, and he was excited at the prospect of being reunited with his family for an entire week. he was a seasoned train traveler, and we were grateful for his advice about the food service, train etiquette, and how the italian train system worked. he excused himself, and we talked about how fortunate we were to have such a knowledgeable and considerate traveling companion. we decided we'd better go eat, and as we walked into the dining car, there he set having a beer. he waved as we entered, and we waved back.
after lunch, we returned to our seats and continued our conversation with our new-found friend. we were concerned about our train connection in bologna, as we had only eight minutes to board our train from bologna to rome. our train was running a little late, and if the time were not made up, we would have little or no time to get to the train to rome. he advised us not to be concerned, as it was likely that we would arrive on time; late arrivals were rare for austrian trains, he told us. if we did miss our train because the incoming train was late, he said that we would have no problem getting an exchange of our seat reservations for a later train. he explained how to go about locating the platform for our next train, since one doesn't know platform locations in italy until shortly before the train's departure. he gave us advice on how to manage our luggage through the station, which involved having to lug it downstairs, and then back up another flight of stairs to the new platform.
again, we were amazed that exactly the advisor we needed was seated with us as we worried over the details of getting around in what was for us a foreign environment. when he left us to catch his train to turin at a stop along the way, we were grateful for his presence and his willingness to help strangers he met along the way. once more we had our worries eliminated because someone cared about people he had never seen before and would probably never see again.
as i reflect on this experience, i pray that i can be such a person, that i will see the needs of others and address those needs without the desire for reward beyond the satisfaction of having been of service to another. may we all be the helpers others need so that their anxieties are replaced by the joy of knowing someone, even a complete stranger, cares for them. shalom