I ride the train with the same handful of people every morning at 7:18 and every evening at 5:03. Over the past few months we have all progressed from a smile to a wave to, finally, conversation. We never exchange names, as that would be breaking one of the sacred commuter rules. So, I have come up with my own names for them; Train Buddy Old Man, train buddy dark haired girl, train buddy school teacher, train buddy young dude...you get the picture.
Yesterday train buddy dark haired girl, old man and I all sat together on the way home. Part of me wants to add a disclaimer to what I am about to write. I want to say "I am not judgemental, I am accepting and open minded..." and part of me thinks "No! I can say what I want because there is truth in it..." I am torn. I will not disclaimer, I will just write. So hear my heart in this.....yesterday as we were chatting away Old Man offered us all some candy. 'Oh coconut chocolate bar, yes please!' Dark haired girl said "oh no, I am fasting" For those of you that are not in a country with a large population of Muslims, Ramadan has started. Briefly, this is the period where Muslims fast from sun up until sun down; spending extra time in prayer etc. dark haired girl is a Muslim. She was quick to let us all know that she was fasting and what a struggle it was. The first thing that came to mind were the verses in Matthew where it talks about putting on your best clothes so no one knows you are fasting; about the nature of the heart not the outward signs. It made me think so much how Islam is a religion of rules, procedure and show. Those who have dark bruising on their forehead are considered to be the most holy because it means they are active in their prayers (again, for those not familiar with Islam, the bruising is because of the constant kneeling and head to floor motion for daily prayers) It is all about what words you say and how you look on the outside...I am in no place to judge, as often I neither look nor act holy. But I do think that there is something to be said about the heart as opposed to outward signs. Everyone can do something externally, but what does the internal commitment really look like?
That aside, train buddy dark haired girl and I got to chatting. Turns out she has been in the UK about the same amount of time that I have. She asked what brought me over, so I told her my husband was British. She wanted to know if it was "love or arranged" marriage. At first I thought she was kidding...but no, dead serious. I told her we meet while travelling and started dating. We chose to get married. She was in shock. Turns out, she is in the UK through marriage as well, but hers was arranged. She said, and I quote, "my father, oh no! He would have killed me if I had gone off and met a boy by myself. He killed my sister" Then she made a motion, finger going around her neck, pretending to slice. Her English is broken, so I am not sure if she meant her father actually killed her sister...but that is what she said! She said her aunt met this boy in England and he seemed like a match, their families knew each other, the parents agreed and 4 months later they were married. Having never met at all! I asked her what that was like and she said "he is a good, nice man. It is good" Oh ok, as long as she is happy. She asked me if I liked the UK. I gave my typical answer. 'Oh, it’s not too bad. Different to America, more expensive, smaller etc... and the weather is crap. But it’s not too bad' A pretty superficial, materialistic answer. When I returned the question she answered without hesitation "Oh I love it, over here I am free" Since we had already discussed fasting and arranged marriages, I figured it was fair game to ask exactly what she meant by free. She explained that while she missed her mother and brother back home, in the UK she could leave the house by herself, work at a business that is not run by family members, wear her hair down, make friends and talk to people without her father's permission! Now it was my turn to be shocked! Here I was complaining about the weather and food portions and this woman was happy to be allowed out of the house and able to speak! Again, rules and regulations. I am of the opinion 'the truth will set you free' and I feel in her case the 'truth' that she and her family so deeply believe in has trapped and enslaved her. We had a bit more of a chat and agreed to catch up on the train ride the next morning. That was Thursday. I haven’t seen her since. I am sure there is a logical reason, but it makes me wonder....did she talk to the wrong person? did she say the wrong thing? I am praying desperately for train buddy dark haired girl. Being around the Islamic faith so often over here has allowed me to realise that even the smallest and most innocent of mistakes can cost someone their life.
Train buddy dark haired girl gets off one stop before me and train buddy old man. So once she left old man and I started having a chat. He knows I hate my job and he suggested I have a career change. 'Whatever do you mean?' I asked. He said he works consultancy for the Met (Metropolitan Police) He said they are actively recruiting for a forensic scientist. I am not a scientist by any means, but they have quite an advanced training scheme. He said if I was interested, he would pull some strings and set up an interview perhaps....hmmm, this could be interesting. So I have decided to go for it. I am applying for a job with The Met to study and a become a forensic fingerprint expert! Yeah, how cool is that? Good thing for train buddy old man.
So even though I complain often about the train, there are benefits. It was nice to have a suggestion about a potential job; but it was even better to be reminded that there are hundreds out there who are lost, confused and hurting. Train buddy dark haired girl has a name, a family, a life. I have decided to make it a goal to find out more about her, get personal and hopefully start to show her a little bit more of the love of Jesus. I hope someday she can taste what TRUE freedom is like.