An encounter with a stranger on Clapham junction station left me changed.
I spied her down the platform, huddled over, advanced in years, wool coat wrapped tight and hair neatly arranged in a headscarf. People were shooting her side glances. She looked vulnerable, out of place in all the hustle, head barely able to straighten up. But her eyes were bright and her stance steadfast next to her sturdy suitcase.
Trains were coming every few minutes as yet more people spilled and swirled about the platform. She was still there looking at the display board intently. Was she ok? Did she need someone to help her find her train?I was compelled to speak to her.
We chatted about our journeys ahead and it turned out we were getting the same train. I needn’t have worried about her knowledge of trains. She reeled off the times, stations and carrige she needd to be in when the train divided but I was worried about her getting into the train with her case as the distance from the platform to the train is massive at Clapham.
We jostled, levered and hoisted ourselves onto the busy train. I learnt a little more about her and love of journeys but it wasn’t long before we parted ways. She told me matter of factly that she wasnt sure how the next part of her journey would work out. There was no one to meet her and she hadn’t been able to get in touch with the venue beforehand. I felt moved by her strength of character in what appeared to be such a weak frame. I got off the train with tears rolling down my face as she shot me a warm smile. I could only explain my tears as a response to her unlikely bravery and fear for what might befall her in the journey ahead.
Later on I looked up the place she was going. It was a Christian retreat centre. I hadn’t had the chance to tell her we walked under the same hand of protection. I knew then where her strength came from for her pilgrimage and I no longer needed to worry about her reaching her sacred destination.