Monday, September 7, 2020

A Passenger on a London Train "Made My Day" **

By Gerald Cowan
    Like the people in many other big cities, people in London tend to be cold and suspicious. To smile at a stranger or even to make eye contact can invite unwelcome attention from people wanting things you don’t want to give or offering things you don’t want to receive. This cold and forbidding attitude can throw a gloomy overcast on your whole day. You can feel very much alone, even in a crowd of people. You yearn for someone to notice that you exist, to acknowledge that you have value, to make some sort of contact that will identify both of you as persons.
    One day I was a standing passenger just inside the doorway on a over-crowded subway train (London Underground Railway). I engaged in a little people-watching. A young woman was seated facing me caught my attention, although, to tell the truth, my thoughts about her were not approving or complimentary. Wild clothing, wild hair style and makeup, black lipstick, black  nail polish on fingers and toes, hair bleached to the consistency of straw, spiked and spray painted purple and green, multiple rings in her ears, metal studs piercing everything, a lot of bare skin and some inappropriate tattoos. I said to myself, “That is weird – that is really weird!”
    The train broke down between stations, and it quickly got very warm – no air flow, and all those bodies packed closely together. I got very hot and was soon sweat drenched, and no doubt very red-faced. Nobody said anything to me, and nobody seemed to care. I took off my raincoat and my suit coat, loosened my tie, opened my collar, and fanned myself with my cap. Not much help. I had a rising sense of panic. Then I noticed one person looking at me, and when she caught my eye she mouthed the words, “You OK?” I just nodded at her and said, “I’ll be OK. Not to worry.” And I really did feel better, somehow. Somebody did care, after all! She kept monitoring my condition,  nodding several times reassuringly – she even offered me her seat, but I didn’t take it.
    About a half-hour later we were pushed bucking and bouncing into the next station. Paramedics were there to make sure everybody was OK. As I left the train the same person caught my eye again, gave me a thumbs up sign, and smiled. Now a smile is a universal sign of good will. Everybody understands a smile. That one smile really made my day. It changed my perspective about the person too. Yes it was the same person I had thought was so weird, but by now I wasn’t thinking much about the black lipstick and nail polish, the green and purple spiked hair, the rings and metal studs, and all the rest of it. A person had smiled and said, “I’m glad you’re OK.”  She made my day.
    I learned a lot from that girl on the train in London. I learned that I do not enjoy being treated as non-existent, a non-person, a non-entity. I decided that most other people probably feel the same way. I learned that you can’t really judge a book or a person by the cover, by anything external. The sense of reassurance I felt from a little bit of concern a stranger showed to me taught me that others might feel the same way if I showed concern for them as persons.
    The Lord Jesus interacted as a person with other persons – he wanted his involvement with humanity to be personal. He sends us into the world as persons, not only to be involved with other persons, but to lead others to become involved with him as personal Lord and personal Savior. If you want to make somebody’s day and life and eternity, introduce him or her to Jesus Christ. Don’t forget to add the smile and the evidence of interest and concern for a fellow traveler – everyone you see is a passenger with you on the way to somewhere.

**Reprint from 30 years ago.  I lesson I needed to learn again.  Maybe it will help you too.
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at

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