Urban Life: The Little things that matter

Living the urban life comes with its daily challenges for many. From travel to working in the cities, to balancing work-life, or just simply raising children in urban communities, one has to be fully engaging and equipped to make good one’s time.

While waiting on the train platform this early Monday morning, with my two daughters, on our way to school, I observed a young mother struggling with a rather huge buggy, trying to find a space on the platform, as it was quite packed with commuters, some rushing off to other platforms and others waiting for our train to various destinations. Heaving and puffing, she looked out of breath, obviously from being in a hurry so as not to miss the train.

She finally stopped beside me and leaned into the buggy, adjusting the blankets covering the babies. There were two. One looked older, perhaps two years old and the other an infant. She had another child of about six, holding on to the buggy.

Mother looked quite exhausted! She was still panting as the train arrived on the platform and rolled to a stop.

Although it was about 9 degrees Celsius (approx. 48 degrees Fahrenheit), cold by all standards, she had sweat dripping down her brow.

I moved slightly to allow her entry into the train, signalling to my little girls to give way. Thanking me, she hurriedly got in and found a tight spot to place her buggy.

We had travelled about three stops when suddenly there was a loud groan, so loud I had to turn around to see what was going on. It was the young mother!

Her face was ashen, like she had just witnessed a most horrific event.

Reaching into the buggy, she picked up the infant and cradled him under one arm. A foul smell wafted through the air, a very pungent smell, like that you get in a dump site. The toddler had done a ‘number two’!

You could feel the exasperation and desperation of this young mother. Her oldest child turned to face me, sadness in her deep blue eyes. At that moment my heart dropped for this young family.

A lady closest to her must have felt as awful as I did because she suddenly got up and went to see how best she could be of help.

Packed train, people starting off their day’s business, I could feel this young mother’s embarrassment, as she thanked the other lady and asked if she could calm the other child in the buggy, who, at this time, was in a real fit.

‘It’s been a right nightmare since the weekend you know’, said the young mother hurriedly, looking at the lady and then around her, eyes catching mine. I could see she was contemplating if it was convenient to change the baby’s diapers. She decided not to, as she sat the baby back in the buggy, placing a dummy in baby’s mouth. She went on with her moans, telling the other lady how she was a single mother and was having a hard time. I felt embarrassed for her, why she was explaining her circumstances to this lady, and clearly in earshot of most of her fellow commuters. Suddenly it dawned on me!! She was indeed quite embarrassed and felt the need to explain her rather sad situation.

Well, within a few more minutes we arrived at our stop.

Got my girls and off we went. For the next few minutes, I couldn’t get this young mother and her children off my mind. I thought of what her morning must have been like, how she was coping as a single parent of three, going it all alone, if she had any sort of support. She did have a rather unkempt appearance, like someone who had struggled to get the children together this morning and had somewhat neglected to fix herself. I felt sympathy for her and hoped her day got better eventually.

This morning’s observation got me thinking. Sometimes we look at people and make judgments based on our biases. We fail to reflect on our own lives and remember moments or times when we had been completely out of control of situations and how we felt during those periods.

As I dropped my daughters off in their school and gave them kisses, I reminisced on how things had been when I first became a single parent. The girls were just 2 and 4 years old. It was quite a challenge and I could imagine what this young mother must be going through with three little children.

For many today, life could seem somewhat unbearable. Things you and I may take for granted are unattainable for some.

Always remember, sometimes a smile, a brief chat, a helping hand, could have a momentary positive impact to someone’s life.

Those are indeed some of the little things that truly matter!!

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