In the wake of the Metro crash, it seems that everyone’s got an opinion. Everyone around here, you see, rides Metro sooner or later, and I live deep in the heart of Red Line country. We may not hang out at Fort Totten, but we’ve all transferred trains there, waiting on the platform for what seems like an eternity, balancing a stroller or clutching a little one’s hand, or maybe standing there with briefcase and blackberry, making use of the wait time, wondering when the next train will come.
It’s just what we do around here. We take the Metro to work. We take the Metro to play. We take the Metro to the space museum and to see the dinosaurs in all their glory. We take the Metro when we want to run in a race or to join hundreds of thousands of other people who support the same cause down on the Mall. And so an accident like the one on Monday has the power to shake us.
Courtland Milloy wrote an interesting column in yesterday’s Washington Post, talking about how his first reaction to the crash — that could have been me! — thankfully evolved as he learned more about the accident into an appreciation for unsung heroes and the empathy that our mayor showed in his comments. Reading his column, I began to get a little agitated, however. Of course we should praise the unsung heroes (and could we get a HURRAH for the FIREFIGHTERS and rescue personnel, please?). Of course we should be pleased that our leaders are human and show their humanity on occasion. Of course we should rally, and respect, and mourn those that have been lost.
But I’m here to say, there’s value in realizing just how lucky we are as well.
We are so lucky. For most of us, the days are uneventful. We drive our cars to the Metro, hop on when the doors open, and stand and relax while someone else drives the train. For some of us, though, each of these steps can be difficult to impossible, because of daily challenges that our bodies or our minds have to overcome. Perhaps we’ve spent the weekly money, and there is no money for gas, so we have to walk to the station, a mile away. Perhaps we cannot just “hop on” a train, because we have terrible fears that hold us back. Perhaps we have physical disabilities, permanent or temporary, that make it impossible to stand on the train, forcing us to disturb the guy with the ipod and ask please, may I sit down? Perhaps we are sick, with the flu or something worse, and cannot risk going out in public for fear of further infection. Perhaps ….
We take so much for granted. So many things have to go right each day just for us to have a “normal” day at work or play, and they don’t always go right. When they do, even if it seems like nothing much, we should be grateful. We should feel lucky.
It wasn’t me. It wasn’t my loved ones on that train. I am lucky. Yes, I mourn for those who have lost loved ones, I do, but I think it’s okay to also feel that flash of gratitude, that sigh of relief we try to conceal, and to hug our children extra tight.
We are lucky, and when we remember that, everything seems brighter.
Today was a big day for me. It sounds so minor in writing, but for me, it was a major, major celebration.
When I was a child, I played soccer, just like so many of my friends in the South. I played soccer for years and years, until we became teenagers and there were no more teams for girls. The youth league ended at 12, you see, and the school teams didn’t allow girls to play. I know. I tried out for the team with all my friends. The boys made it; I didn’t. No girls in the school district did at the time (1986). So I found other ways to indulge my passion for the game. I worked out with the team even though I couldn’t play. I signed on as team manager, keeping the stats and helping with the equipment, going to each game just like my friends, only they got to play,while I stayed behind, at the bench, with my clipboard. I helped my father coach my little brother’s team for years, gamely wearing bright orange team colors each Saturday to cheer them on, helping with drills, encouraging the kids to have fun and give it their all. I spent a spring in Ref school. While all my friends were playing on the neighborhood fields, I would at least get to referee the little kids’ games and be part of thegame. I knew that when I grew up, I would coach my son’s or daughter’s team as well.
When I got sick, that dream (and so many others) went out the window. I cried because I didn’t even know if I could take the kids to swim lessons in the summer. I gave up running because of complications and pain. I pulled the kids out of preschool because I couldn’t even risk infection that they might bring home. I put away those dreams, and I thought that that’s where they would stay.
But today, I became a soccer mom — and coach! — at last. Today we gathered 20 of our little friends at a local ball field, ran some drills, stretched, learned to pass the ball to each other, and had a GREAT TIME. The kids were so totally into it, and they laughed and played as they kicked the ball to each other and in the goals, over, and over again. My friend Lisa made t-shirts for ALL of the kids, and there were two left over, for me and another friend who will be “coaching” with us this “season.” The great big yellow shirt is the color of sheer happiness, and the words on the back proclaim to all that I am, finally,
Today, another dream has begun to come true. Another day stretches before us with laughter and fun and friendship, and there will be another one tomorrow. I am lucky. I’m not ashamed to say it. I am so lucky. And I’m willing to bet that you are too.