Monday, November 14, 2016

The Call of a Night Train

I lived in the three different areas of the country as a child, married man and now an empty-nester. At every location, at some point in the middle of the night I would hear the sound of train whistles.

The first place I lived was a tiny coal mining community in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. About a mile from the house ran railroad tracks adjacent to a wide creek of rushing water. I recall nights while in my bed under a t0n of heavy blankets (no heat on the second floor) hearing the distant soft clickety-click of a train carrying coal from one location to another. When the slow moving behemoth of a train approached a road cross with its flashing red lights, the engineer would blow a warning whistle.

Some nights the horn would wake me up. Other nights I recall being wide awake waiting for the crossing whistle. I would dream about trains on their journey to faraway places. As a kid, I was swept up into that imaginary journey to unknown places. What would I be as an adult? Where would I end up? What distant lands would I visit?

The second experience was decades later as a married man with three children. Again, near our home now in New Jersey was another railroad track not far from our home. The sound and whistles of a passing train in the dark of night still did its magic for me. Faraway and unknown places pulled at my spirit as my dreams soared with possibilities for our children. Where will the journey take them? Will they see a future despite the chaotic world we live in? Will the train whistle be an inspiration to them and encourage them to seek beyond their borders?

Now in North Carolina, there is a train that runs through the center of town several times a day. I could set my clock to the train horn blowing at the same times each and every night. The faint din of the noisy blast is still like a healing balm applied to my conflicted spirit. I wake up some nights with a start. Then I fall back into a dream-like state where my mind travels the world in search of answers, solutions and options. I never have a moment of blankness of not knowing what to do. If all else falls short, I pray for my family members and let the Lord do the rest.

Psalm 121:8 reminds us that the Lord will keep our going out and our coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

I hope you have an opportunity to hear the call of a night train. If not, when you are forced to come to a stop because of flashing red lights and a passing train, do not consider it an inconvenience. Take the moment to dream dreams for you and loved ones.

Robert Parlante
November 2016

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