He stood less than, or right around, 3 feet tall.
His little nose was as red as a St. Louis Cardinals
shirt, and I quickly found out why as I shivered and
shook from the cold. What kept me warm was his
energy. This little guy, so excited about riding a
train, would run up and down the train station,
between Broadway and Pekin.
Every once in the while he’d take his little hand,
which had a mitten that hung on like the last leaf
of fall, and cup his ear and yell [from no matter
the distance],”Hey gramma, I think I hear the
Before I could even put my bags down, my new friend
came and sat directly next to the spot where I was
going to plant myself.
“Hi,” he said, grinning and introducing himself
using his full name. His tone was so matter-of-fact
that it made me smile.
I introduced myself and before I even finished my
last name my little friend said, “Hey, you’ve got a
lot of bags. Are you going to Bloomington, too?”
When I told him no, explaining that I was on my way
to Chicago, his nose scrunched and he repeated what
I said back to me, like little kids often do.
He wore John Deere boots, and excitedly explained
not only that his uncle Grant bought him these
boots, but why: “I have a tractor that has a flat
tire, but it can be fixed by uncle Grant because
uncle Grant has a tractor too and it works because
it was in the parade and I waved at him when he was
in the parade and one day when I’m not a kid,
because I’m only 5, I’ll ride my tractor in the
As with his introduction, he spoke again with great
excitement and enthusiasm. When I asked if this was
his first time on the train he told me that a very
long time ago, like, when he was 3 he rode the
A very long time ago….this, on the day before my
Later that same day, as I made my way through
Chicago, walking stories below skyscrapers and
bumping shoulders with people I’ve never met, I made
a forest in the thick of summer, light will always find its way to
us, even through cityscapes of erected steel and glass.
I listened to the beat of the city, as beautiful as a drum in
worship, in the shaking cup held by a homeless woman.
My heart smiled, hearing different languages spoken.
For a moment, I found some sense of comfort, as I felt myself “get
lost in the crowd.”
Psalm 139 came to mind as I watched people from a bench: “I praise
you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
As he departed from the train, my buddy stopped, turned around and
gave me a big hug. He didn’t know me. He was probably taught not to
talk to strangers. Yet he did anyway. His willingness to engage with
me; his eagerness to listen to my story; and his energy for life
excited me for a trip that I was previously secretly dreading.
Before this encounter, I was anxious and a little afraid of heading
the big city. My new friend's eagerness to hear my story, and share
his, made me feel vulnerable and safe. His honest excitement
reminded me of God's presence in our midst. This vitality, found in
an unexpected place and through an unlikely encounter, is the
relational manifestation of the incarnation, as a holy and necessary
disruption in our lives.
It may look like a pair of size 1 John Deere boots.
It might sound like the sidewalk on Michigan Avenue.
Or it might sound like the rhythmic clanking of an Amtrak train.
[Adam Quinn of First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]