The first thing I noticed were the white running shoes, propped up on the pillow. As I lugged my own luggage onto the train, grabbed the four seater so as to secure space for my computer, binder and thinking, I quickly glanced at the scene to my right. Four seniors on a road trip it seemed, enjoying snacks, scenery and each other.
Turning to the task before me, I was determined to make use of the 2 hour train ride ahead.
The second time I turned to my right, I couldn’t look away. Nothing remarkable really, but for some reason, at that very moment, I found it to be so. The man with the running shoes and baseball hat had closed his eyes for a rest and the look of peace on his face struck me like a gust of wind. He looked to me like a man whose work was done, had worked the long hours, weathered the storms of raising a family and was ready to pass on the torch. Clearly, I had no way of knowing whether there was a grain of truth to any of that, but at that moment, he looked so very deservedly restful. And I prayed that he, along with my own father, were. I sat there wondering whether parents ever attain this peace of mind or do their children’s trials become their own?
As a parent of young children, the journey ahead can be overwhelming, partly because of the uncertainty of what the future holds. Many of us are so physically exhausted at the end of the day, that we are out like a light as soon as our heads hit the pillow. I’m told, however, that as our children get older, that physical exhaustion turns into mental energy exerted day and night.
When we are blessed with children, we are also blessed with an almost retroactive understanding of our own parents’ trials. We try to transplant ourselves into the past and ask, how, oh how did our mothers raise us without any family around her, how did our fathers answer all our questions with such patience and openness and how did they stay so focused on instilling in us this love of our Deen with so little in the way of community resources and support?
I don’t know if our work is ever done in the way I imagined it to be yesterday on the train. But the sight of the sleeping man in the running shoes calmly told me this: all in good time insha’Allah – for now, it is our turn.