Sunday, July 6, 2014

Compassion on the Train in Portland, Oregon

Colossians 3:12 - You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own.  So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Portland, Oregon, has an extensive public transportation system which includes a train, trolleys and buses.  When we visit our daughter, Anna, who lives in Portland, we always ride the train from the airport to our stop close to the hotel where we stay.  The trip takes about forty-five minutes.

Interesting people ride the train; last time we went was no exception.  The train stopped and a young woman in  a motorized wheelchair propelled herself to a large space across the aisle from where I was sitting  reserved for the handicapped. 

Immediately, she laid back on the head rest and closed her eyes.  Her legs were twisted and misshapen.  I guessed she was born with spina bifida or cerebral palsy.  Her arms and hands, however, looked 'normal' with adequate movement and control.

She held a yellow flower in her hand along with a few buds which had not blossomed.  Even though she appeared weak and tired, she never put the flower in her lap.  She was accompanied by her husband who was keenly aware of her fatigue and potential discomfort.  He gently rubbed her neck, her back, and her arm, over and over as we traveled along the railway tracks.  His compassionate witness felt meditative as he cared for her, taking a break every few minutes, and then continued rubbing some part of her body.  Perhaps her muscles were sore from sitting in a wheelchair for a period of time.  Maybe she was sick or distressed.  The cause didn't matter, his devotion was such a witness to love and devotion in sickness and health.

The woman never opened her eyes during the time she was on the train, nor were any words exchanged between the couple.   When the train reached their exit, her husband maneuvered the wheelchair out the door, his wife still holding tightly her bouquet of yellow flowers and buds.

Prayer:  God thank you for the example of compassion I noted on a busy train clanking through streets and over bridges. Help me extend your compassion I saw modeled to those whom I love and to those whom I encounter.  Amen.


  1. What a beautiful scene to behold, the attentiveness of the husband, and that flower...I'm moved. Yes, compassion, to tend to her, those tender movements, rubbing her back. But the flower...I'm gripped by that image of those beloved flowers she clung to.

  2. What a great example in this city! I think it's awesome how you choose to open your eyes & witness love & devotion in places people typically do not (like public transit). Thanks for this story, mom! love xo