Tuesday, March 31, 2009


We were sharing the top bunk. Below was a family of five. In fact there were many families and groups all around us, more people than places to put them. Like a church picnic they were all preparing, sharing, and eating meals. Across was the toilet, a hole out to the tracks. The train had been stopped for some undetermined reason. It was 35 degrees Celsius.

Lisa and I had been, when the train was moving, traveling 2nd class across the eastern desert of India toward the border of Pakistan. We were very hot, covered in dust, and just a little bit uncomfortable in our perched position above the humanity below.

“You know,” Lisa said, “I had thought that we were the normal ones traveling among the abnormal, I am now realizing that it’s us who’s abnormal.”

I assume comfort. I assume order. I assume sanitation. Actually, for us in the west it’s beyond assumption – it’s entitlement. Is it any wonder the nickname for our western toilet is ‘the throne’? I am not suggesting it should be different. I like dishwashers, seats that recline, and cordless phones.

But, every now and then, I have the memory of that train ride, leaning on our backpacks, realizing that most of the world isn’t like us.

I can open my fridge at home, full of food, and say to myself – “there’s nothing to eat”. I will find myself buying clothes – even though I have many shirts I never wear hanging in my closet. In comparison with my train riding companions, I want for nothing. But, in truth, I want all the time.

That afternoon, stopped in the desert on the way to Jodhpur in the overwhelming heat, without room to move, and the rising stench from under the train, we watched families share chapatti and lentils, men talk and argue, children play and laugh.

The reason it seemed so different, almost difficult to grasp, was that oddly, for them, it was enough.


  1. This might be your best entry yet. Yes, I've read them all. Yes, I need a hobby.
    I'll tell you more of what I think when you're done your lentries (if you care).
    The kid might have potential....

    (Kirby, you twit)

  2. Rory, I love this.

    I was 16, travelling for 48 hours on a slow train between Hyderabad and Agra. After six weeks in India, the end of our summer work team. Six weeks of sickness, throwing up, fever. But I loved India. God had been doing a work in my heart.

    And there in my top bunk, two feet from the ceiling of the clanking train, in the middle of the darkest night, I realized I also was abnormal. I committed at that point to live my life by serving others wherever God would take me - I thought it meant to the poor - and it did, but it has also meant to the wealthy.