Wrong side of the tracks

I had the good fortune last week to travel to Newark, N.J. to meet with our soon-to-be Bishop of Fall River, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.

First of all, the meeting was an absolute delight. Bishop da Cunha was cordial, gracious and funny. When I arrived, he was having lunch with some of the Vocationist Sisters who teach at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Nursery at the former Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, now part of St. Michael’s Parish.

I was offered a seat and a plate by the kind Sisters and felt right at home with them and the bishop — good food, good conversation, and good people.

Following our meeting, Bishop da Cunha drove me to Newark Penn Station so I could grab a train to New York City where I was staying the night.

My ride to Newark began in Providence on an Amtrak train. I’ve always enjoyed riding Amtrak, except for the time Denise and I headed for the Big Apple, but it was spring break, and we had to stand for the entire four-hour ride there.

That wasn’t the case this time. I was able to get a seat, and was able to plug in my smart phone and my laptop. I worked for several hours on the ride down in comfort and quiet.

Denise came along and she read the entire journey — getting a well-deserved break from her hectic schedule.

As anyone who has ridden the rails before knows, the trains are complete with a dining car and rest rooms — pretty much all the comforts of home.

Riding the rails can be an enjoyable, relaxing experience. But it depends on which rails one is riding.

The train from Newark to NYC was part of the N.J. transit system. On this train there is little quiet and no comforts of home. But the major difference is the people.

In the station there were homeless people and folks in various mental states, be it from drugs or alcohol, or other contributing factors.

The station and the train had their fair share of people asking for money, in obvious dire straits.

In NYC we took the NY metro system to and from Times Square. Again we encountered scores of destitute and troubled people — on the street, in the terminals, and on the trains.

The difference between the Amtrak ride and the public transit trains is stark and drastic. The people we saw can’t even afford a cup of coffee, let alone a ride on a cozy Amtrak car.

I had a good amount of time to think about these people who live this existence daily, while I only see them when in large cities or on TV or movies.

The ride home, on Amtrak, was again quiet and cozy. There was no one looking for handouts. There were no unnerving stares or people clad in filthy rags. But that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. They are, every day, all over the world.

I’m by no means a wealthy man, but I’m also by no means riding the rails on the wrong side of the tracks.

Why? I don’t know. 

But the trip gave me pause to thank God for what I do have, and to pray for those whose daily ride on the rails is neither quiet nor cozy.

Dave Jolivet can be contacted at davejolivet@anchornews.org.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts