For travel between cities, I really like to take public transport. Especially longer travels. Across a country. Or even crossing borders. There you have time. You don’t have to hold the steering wheel. You can do whatever you want. And sometimes, you can get to know new humans. You can get to know someone. Listen to their story. And two weeks ago exactly that happened. But it was different than a usual chat.
I sat in one of those older trains with compartments for 6 people each. A railroad company purchased these old trains and brought them back on the rails. They are beautiful. The seats are often more comfortable than in newer trains. And with the compartments, it’s much more silent and easier to get to know the people you are traveling with. I was on my way from Munich to the town I grew up in. There I joined a family with 2 kids in their cabin.
Young kids can be a little annoying at times. But these two? So friendly and bursting with energy. It was great to see them play and enjoy the ride. After some time I got into a conversation with the father. The story that unfolded was touching, to say the least. The family is from Libya, their house got destroyed by bombings and the youngest son has a lung disease.
That’s a culmination of struggle and hardship as I rarely see it. But that does not keep them from showing the occasional smile. The family had been traveling from country to country for a couple of years. Finally, for the past two years, they were able to stay in Germany. Getting good hospital treatment for the boy and also, finally are able to search for a job to work as well.
I was not sure what to expect. It didn’t feel like they were refugees. But sometime in the conversation, he mentioned that they are. With all the things going on in their home country. For sure. But they didn’t have to come in a life raft or other small boat. For them, it seemed like normal travel as I know it. In planes. Staying in different places for some times. But it’s so much more. For them, it’s about life or death. Finding a country where they can take part. Where they can be included in society without having to fear for dear life. In Libya were just too many threats.
And I have to say: if I would be living in a country that has a similar situation? I would leave as well. It’s not a place where you can build something that lasts. Not a place where you would like to grow a family. They tried. They wanted to stay. And they still have roots there. They’d like to go back, someday. But not as long as the political situation is so complicated.
Stories like these, give me a new perspective. Stories like these, show how good we have it in Germany and other developed and war free countries. But also the responsibility we have to take on refugees. To care for each other and to provide opportunities to make their lives better. They come here not to take. But to be safe. And from everything that I hear, they want to give back as well. Work. Be part of society. And at some point, go back home. To a country that’s hopefully more stable than when they left it.
I am happy that this family told such a positive story. Despite all the struggles they are going through. I am happy that they get the health treatment for their son. And I am happy that I have met these incredible people and shared the train ride with them.
You can make a difference. And sometimes it's as simple as listening and getting to know someone. Never forget that.