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We had a scary thing almost happen today, and I don’t think I handled it very well.

Olivia and I had gone to the library after preschool and as we were leaving we heard a not-to-distant train whistle. That whistle meant the San Joaquin Railway train was close by, and would soon be coming down the tracks right through the middle of town (and across the street from the library). I really wanted Olivia to get to watch the train go by so close, so we sat down on a bench in the shade to wait. Another young family sat on the next bench over.

Soon the train pulled into view, blowing its horn as if to say, “Make way, make way!” As it came closer, the horn continued sounding intermittently. Olivia, of course, was watching intently, but with both ears covered because of the noise. Soon the train was passing in front of us, but it the horn was blaring continually and the engineer was slowing it to a stop. As we watched, the engineer opened a hatch on the front of the engine and came three-fourths of the way out. To our dismay we realized that the engineer was yelling at a man who was nearly on the tracks!

With one more blast of his horn the engineer took off again heading west, and Olivia and I walked towards the car. As we reached the car, a rather agitated man walked up and said, “I was almost hit by that train!” I told him I knew that, as we had been watching, and I was glad he wasn’t hit.

“Oh, no!” he said, “I wanted to be hit!” I was instantly outraged that someone would even consider killing himself in front of my precious four-year old granddaughter. As tears filled his eyes he said, “I have no family. I am nobody. What good am I? Why should I live?” I assured him he was not a nobody in God’s eyes, but he wasn’t buying it. (Meanwhile Olivia was strapping herself into her car seat and watching intently.) I asked if he had gone to his church for help, and he said he hadn’t. I urged him to go to the nearest church (too rattled to even think of the Rescue Mission) and then took Olivia home.

As I drove away I realized how inadequate my response had been, mostly out of concern for Olivia. The thought of her possibly innocently watching the train go by as he purposefully stepped in front of it was so frightening. I prayed that God would put someone more eloquent and useful in his path, someone who could focus on his needs and give him better help.

And I prayed my thanks that the engineer saw him and was able to stop the train.