The C-train is the light rail transit system that transports thousands of commuters around Calgary. Ben and I had noticed one while we were out last week. He was fairly impressed with the ‘city train’. So, on Monday morning, we got ourselves ready, stopped by our house to pick up Jim, and headed to the station. Ben was wide-eyed and interested.
My loose plan was to see how long he would be willing to sit still on the train, and then take it from there. I assumed we might go a few stops, get off, and ride the train back. It turns out that Benjamin might have a bit of my maternal grandfather’s blood in him. Grampy worked for the railroad when I was a young girl. I’m sure if Ben thought he could be hired, he’d be down at the station putting in his application!
As the train headed out, Ben was thrilled to see us passing another train. The ride only got better and better as we noticed all the city traffic out the window. A banner day it was, as we saw garbage trucks, fire engines, big white trucks and all sorts of other gems. Pulling into each station, the train would start to slow. Worried the trip might be finished, as Ben felt the train slowing to a stop he would sharply say, “Go!”. I explained to him that we needed to let the people off, then let the people on, and then we could go. He began to understand the rhythm of the trip. Go, stop, people off, people on, go.
Little Ben never made any motion to try to get up off his seat, nor did he ever seem disinterested with his wonderful adventure. As I sat beside him, I found myself completely engrossed in the ride. My mind was fully in the moment. Go, stop, people off, people on, go.
We rode all the way to the city centre, got off, walked about a block to City Hall, all the while taking in the wonderful array of passing vehicles. Then we turned around, headed back to the station, hopped back on the train and made the return trip. Go, stop, people off, people on, go.
I’ve had a few days to think about our little adventure on the train. I was surprised at how much I liked the rhythm of the ride. Normally, when I am on the train, my mind is filled with what I am headed to, how I might navigate the next part of the journey, what I left undone at home, what is waiting for me on my desk at home and so forth. But on this trip, I very contentedly relaxed into what felt almost like a meditation. Go, stop, people off, people on, go.
Each of us gets our ticket to ride when we are born. The trip ends with our death. In the middle of it all, it really comes down to go, stop, people off, people on, go. My little ride with Ben has caused me to think about my own train trip. A couple of things are standing out for me.
I sometimes get so busy, all I think about is “Go!”. I pretend that life will slow down once I finish this next project, once I accomplish a goal, or once some milestone has been reached. But the truth is, every time my train has hinted at slowing down, just as Ben did, I call out, “Go!” I know I have sometimes forgotten to find the enjoyment of the stopping at each station, at the close of each event. I’ve forgotten to take that moment to breath in and out, to think about where I have come from, and what I have accomplished or experienced. I’ve forgotten to take time to consider what could have made my little trip better. And to appreciate how good it was.
The other stand out thing for me was the movement of people on and off the train. This too, seemed to resonate with my life. In each little segment of my life there are different people. Some people stay on the train with me for several stops. Some for just a short distance. Some are on for a while, then get off, then back on for some more travelling together. Sometimes there is plenty of room on the train for all of us. Other times we have to move over, to make room for others to sit down. On the trip with Ben, the train came to a complete stop at each station, giving people time to safely board and get off. I have a feeling that my train has not always come to a full stop. Sometimes I’m so busy trying to get to the next station, I forget to fully thank people who have journeyed with me; to acknowledge their contribution to my life.
A couple of days after my trip on the train, I met my friend Rhonda for a coffee and a visit. She and I were each hurrying to arrive at our agreed upon meeting place. We had a wonderful visit, catching up on the past couple of weeks, and planning our next cycling adventure together. Suddenly we looked at the time, quickly hugged goodbye and were off to the next stop in our day. As I drove home my phone chimed with an incoming text. When I got home, I saw that Rhonda had texted to say thank you for the visit, and that she was looking so forward to our upcoming adventure.
Go, stop, people off, people on, go. Rhonda made a little revision and got it right. She made room between the go and the stop, between the people off, people on, to take a moment to acknowledge how precious our small encounters are, how lucky we are to have people to travel with, and how special each little train trip can be.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Go, stop, people off, people on… what part of my journey needs my attention?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn when to ‘Go, stop, people off, people on, go’.