Right now I’m sitting at the Amtrak station at Ft Lauderdale, FL. I love riding the train, up or down the coast every month. I should already be on the train, the 8:50 AM train heading up the coast, but my ride to the station got me here 5 minutes late and I watched the train pull away. I sighed.
I didn’t panic because I knew there was one more train today in three and a half hours. It’s also a longer ride by several hours, and a longer lay-over at Philadelphia 30th St station. (my favorite station on this route) I won’t get into Harrisburg until 10:05 Pm tomorrow night instead of shortly 12:45 PM.
I really wanted my morning a cup of coffee that I would have gotten at the Cafe car and there was no food or vending machine at this tiny station, unless I wanted to walk a few blocks. I didn’t want it that bad although the walk would have been beneficial. Oh well, I’ll live.
I decided instead to work on a chapter for my book I was in the middle of writing. Inside The Forbidden Outside, so I put the time to good use. My phone was dead so I plugged it into the ONLY electrical outlet in this quite huge room. Since everyone has a device that needs charging its a good thing I’m the only one sitting here. Mass transit and airports usually have charging availabilities.
A man walks in from the outside looking for an outlet. “Can I please charge my phone?” he asked, seeing my cord plugged into the only outlet. He had been at an establishment, I don’t remember where, and his wallet had been stolen. He called the police, not very confident of getting it back but it was all he could do. He had just gotten a phone call from the police. They caught the guy. He still had his wallet and everything was in it. He needed to come get it. . . then his phone battery died. He needed to call Uber, who already has a credit card on file, since his card was in his wallet. Of course I told him to unplug me. He made his call, thanked me and ran out the door.
Next, a woman came in, waiting for Tri-rail, which services the communities in lower Florida. While she waited she really wanted to have a cup of coffee, but she didn’t want to drag her suitcase.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I told her. “I’m more than happy to watch your bag. I have two hours yet to wait.”
She was happy about that and pulled he bag over to me and set it beside me. As she headed to the door she turned and asked, “Can I get you anything?”
A smile lit up my face. “A cup of coffee?” I got out my wallet to give her a few dollars and she said, no, it was a fair trade for watching her bag.
I wasn’t going hold on to the money for that cup of coffee for very long. Soon after she left, a man came into the station, distraught. He also like he was in pretty bad shape. He paced the room and sat down down in the row of metal seats in front of me. (Very uncomfortable for long term sitting. Good thing I have a little pillow with me.)
“Can you help me, please,” he said. He was holding a single dollar bill in his hand along with a plastic card and a folded piece of paper.
I listened to his story. “I just got out of jail. I been there for sixty days. I was a trustee and they paid me a dollar a day to clean up in the medical ward. People’s pee and throw up and and everything else no one wanted to clean up.”
“They released me at 8:45 last night and they gave me this debit card and said my $60 was on it, but it won’t work. I called the number on it but the person said I’d have to call back. I just want to get home and I can’t.”
I asked him how much his Tri-rail ticket would cost.
$2.80. He was asking me for $1.80, about the price of a cup of coffee.
“You don’t know what is like in there,” he said real fast.
“People getting raped and stuck with knives. You don’t know what they made me do!” he said, looking like he was about to cry.
“I do know,” I said, and explained why I know and the book I’m writing. I also believed his story. He wasn’t trying to panhandle money just to get money. I don’t know why he was in jail and I didn’t care at this moment. Whether he was guilty or not of whatever he was charged wasn’t the issue, either. He needed help and I could help him. Someday I may need help, too. That is the Law of Cause and Effect.
“I had this public defender and he didn’t care one bit about what was happening to me,” he said like an afterthought.
I did know the issue inmates had about not actually being defended by those who legally were supposed to. Public defenders didn’t defend you. They worked for the district attorney. Even if they wanted to do their job there was no time to do it. There were too many cases to deal with as people were arrested, often to fill quotas. In and out. Fine then and make sure they have a date to return to court. Make it impossible for them to defend themselves. If they have enough fines they can’t pay, they can then be given prison time. Debtors prison. It’s a screwed up system.
The Tri-rail was slowly pulling into the station. I took out a five dollar bill and handed it to him. I could have given him two one dollar bills, but with the extra $3.20, when he got off the train he could get something eat.
There was a look of gratitude on his face as he turned toward the door. “You’re a good woman. A soldier for Christ,” he said and ran to his train.
I chuckled a little. I had no time to tell him I was a Buddhist. But there are concepts between Buddhism and Christianity that are pretty much the same. Christians say, “You reap what you sow.” Nichiren Buddhists call it “The law of Cause and Effect.”
Other people say, “What goes around comes around,” or “You get back what you dish out.” It’s all the same whether you do the right thing or the wrong thing. Our lives are the product of our actions and the causes we make.
There is a rhythm in life. We control that rhythm with our thoughts, words and actions. We can blame no one, even the supposed big man in the universe, for what happens in our lives. But it’s not just the big things that happen. If we look closely at the events in our daily life as it unfolds, we can see the way the pieces fit.
It will be interesting to see how this day plays out; why I missed my train and had to take the next one. There is a reason. Who will I meet? What did I avoid? How do I affect someone else’s life, because I will, in some way. How does it affect my husband’s life having to drive to Harrisburg at 10:00 pm instead of 12:45 pm?
Life is so damn interesting if you slow down and pay attention to the details.