What a small act can lead to

Written by Sergio Martínez-Beltrán 

I’ve always been a fan of those posts on my Facebook timeline where subject “A” meets subject “B” in a random way and they share wisdom and amazing information. I’ve always wanted to be subject “A” or subject “B” and then post about my experience, or at least, treasure that experience in my heart. But things changed on March 14. I was subject “A” that Saturday.

Long story short, I flew with two friends to Puerto Rico for Spring Break. Our flight was from Chicago O’Hare, so on our way back, we landed in Chicago at midnight. I decided to stay with my uncle one more night and my friends drove that day back to East Lansing. On Saturday March 14th, I took the Amtrak train from Chicago to East Lansing for the first time in my life.

After going to the bathroom while waiting for my delayed train to board, I ended up last in line. While walking towards the entrance of my train (the Amtrak Union Station in Chicago was chaotic and very disorganized), in front of me was a middle-aged woman carrying two big suitcases — one of them seemed very heavy.

As we are about to board our railcar, I offered to help her carry her suitcase up the small steps. She asked me if I was sure, which made me kind of nervous (why would she ask if I was sure?), but I said yes and ended up carrying her bag up to her seat.

Pamela, the name of the woman, sat by my side and right away we started having a conversation. After telling me how upset she was with the Amtrak station and with the craziness of Chicago, she told me was from Sweden and had two daughters studying at MSU. She kept telling me about her horrible day;in one day, she broke up a street fight and saved a teenager from being bullied while worrying about her youngest daughter, who was going through a very delicate surgery. (I’m writing a Facebook message to one of Pamela’s daughters to ask how the youngest daughter is doing as I write this post). Pamela’s life and story left me mesmerized — how can a woman go through so many things (some of the tragedies she shared with me I won’t share) and still she was stiff as a rock and maintained an emotional balance.

After she told me her story, this was the the exchange of words that we had:

Me: “Pamela, I admire you so much. It’s incredible how strong you are with all that you have gone through.”

Pamela: “You know, sometimes I don’t know if I’m strong.”

I don’t care what you think, but Pamela is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. And she taught me a lesson: when things get hard in life, you just have to be tougher.

I don’t know how Pamela’s youngest daughter is, but I can tell that both of them have been in my mind since then. I got the chance to meet Pamela’s youngest daughter (Pamela offered to give me a ride back home from the East Lansing Amtrak station and her daughter was there.) What an experience. I’m just grateful for Pamela and her youngest daughter, two total strangers who taught me to appreciate life and to be strong. You can be sad, but you just have to be strong.

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