I recently made the stupid decision to travel from California to Utah by train… with two kids… by myself.
To sum up: Imagine everything a child can complain or cry about, multiply it by two, and put it all in an enclosed space for 15 hours with only one tired mama to deal with it all.
Unfortunately for me, my children don’t sleep in any place except beds, so as soon as nap time rolled around, there was one grumpy baby, one frazzled mama, and one bored, complaining 5-year-old.
I prayed a lot on that train. I prayed that Heavenly Father would send angels to shut my screaming baby’s eyes and soothe her to sleep so I could focus attention on helping my 5-year-old fall asleep. Her eyes didn’t close, and I cried. A lot.
But after several sobbing prayers, Heavenly Father sent human angels to do the job I was praying so desperately for. And I almost didn’t recognize the answer to my prayers.
First, there was Gladys, the 72-year-old woman who sought me out during our tantrum-infused dinnertime specifically to tell me I was doing a good job. (She hadn’t seen me hissing at my 5-year-old downstairs, but I chose to let her live in her ignorance.) She had seen me walk by her seat in the narrow aisles several times loaded down with bags, my baby, and the 5-year-old. Once she told me what she had come to tell me, she plopped down next to us and began doing a word search with Lydia. She remained with us for the next half-hour, talking with me and playing with Lydia. Her words and uplifting cheer carried me through the next hour.
Later, when she saw me again downstairs holding my screaming, still un-sleeping baby in the hall and keeping an eye through a window on my unattended 5-year-old, she patted my arms and again told me I was doing a good job.
At 10:30, with four and a half hours of hell still remaining, I could do nothing but hold my baby and cry. I slumped down in a seat away from other people and couldn’t even attempt to soothe the baby. Meanwhile, Lydia began asking for water, for pillows, for blankets, for anything she could so she could have my attention. Unable to cope, I pried her off me and sent her to sit on a bench by herself. The screaming coming from our party was now doubled.
The snack-station lady came by and began talking to my delirious children. I didn’t even wipe the tears that were streaming down my face as I told her over and over that we would eventually be fine. She was persistent and offered to take Lydia downstairs to make hot chocolate. She didn’t even mention charging me, and I didn’t offer. I just trusted and nodded.
Immediately after Lydia was whisked away to happiness, the baby stopped crying and fell asleep in my arms. I couldn’t believe it. A man walked over to me and told me I was doing a good job. Choking back tears, I thanked him. “Really, though,” he persisted. “I’ve traveled with two kids by myself. You’re doing good. It’s not easy.” Validation means everything in situations like this.
At that moment, it hit me that I had been visited by the angels I had prayed for — human angels who responded to promptings in their hearts to reach out to me.
Lydia returned, bubbling over with stories of being allowed to sit behind the counter and press the button on the microwave. She took two more sips of her hot chocolate, settled onto the seat, and promptly fell asleep like her sister.
Afraid to move for fear of waking the baby in my arms, I let the tears flow and said a silent prayer of gratitude. Moments later, the man was back, offering his son’s blanket for my daughter to borrow. He had the blanket to remind him of the smell of his son who lived in a different state than him. I accepted the precious gift for my daughter.
We traveled for a few more hours, the babies blissfully asleep the whole time. When it was time to disembark, a train employee was by my side, helping me gather my things.
I am certain we would all still be crying and screaming if those “angels” hadn’t stepped in to help me. I will never know why my Heavenly Father didn’t just close my baby’s eyes like I asked, but I certainly was humbled. Completely helpless and desperate, I had to trust and rely on others. If God had simply caused my baby to fall asleep, I wouldn’t have experienced the blessing of receiving help when there was nothing I could do.“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.” – Spencer W. Kimball