I recently read a book about the orphan trains, which ran between 1854 and 1929. During that time, approximately 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children ride the train throughout the United States and Canada, to be placed with families who were looking for a child, or just as often, a worker for their farm. The orphan train movement was necessary, because at the time, it was estimated that 30,000 abandoned children were living in the streets in New York City. I had heard of the orphan trains, mostly from the movie called “Orphan Train,” but much of what really happened with those children was very new to me, and quite shocking.
Today, while my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were in the Black Hills, we rode the 1880 Train, as we almost always do when we are here. When they mentioned that the train had been used in the movie “Orphan Train,” a fact that I had heard many times before, the stories from the book I had read came back to mind. My mind instantly meshed to train, the book, and the movie into one event.
The children who traveled on the orphan trains were victims of circumstance, and they had no control over their lives at all. Each one hoped that their new family would be nice. The older ones didn’t have high hopes. The older boys pretty much knew that they would be farm hands. And most of them were right many were made to sleep in the barn, because they were thought to be thieves. If they were thieves, it was because they had to steal to survive. They did whatever it took to survive.
As Bob and I rode the train today, in the eye of my imagination, I could picture what it must have been like to be one of those orphans. The were sitting there watching that big steam engine take them to someplace they didn’t know, and probably didn’t want to go. They didn’t have high hopes for a great future, but then again, the past wasn’t that great either. They were forced to make the best of a bad situation, and the people who were in charge didn’t really care what happened to them. They were just doing their jobs. I have ridden the 1880 Train many times before, but today, it felt a little bit different, somehow. I knew that I wasn’t an orphan riding that train, but I certainly felt empathy for the children who were.
My grand niece, Christina Masterson is a very soft hearted person. For her, probably the worst thing that can happen is that something she says or does might hurt the feelings of another person. She wants everyone around her to be happy and so, sadness is hard for her to take. She will try her very best to bring joy to those around her. That is probably one of the main reasons why her siblings love her so much. Christina has a special bond with her younger brother, Brycen and her younger sister, Raelynn. Maybe that bond is because they are of similar personalities, and so have more in common, or maybe they are opposites, and that’s why it works. Whatever it is, those younger siblings think she is pretty cool, and she thinks they are too. Nevertheless, she is loved by all her siblings, and she loves them…unconditionally. There is nothing they could do to lose that love.
Maybe being around younger sisters has had some effect on Christina, because she loves Hello Kitty, and even asked for Hello Kitty toys for Christmas. So, her mom got her the whole kitchen set…the toaster, microwave, pancake maker, mixer, and crock pot. While it is a little funny that a 17 years old girl would want Hello Kitty toys, it could get precarious if she tried to use these appliances in her own home when she gets married someday. She has a tendency to be goofy, so Hello Kitty isn’t totally outside the realm of possibilities.
Christina and her cousin, my granddaughter, Shai have been the best of friends almost since they were born, 5 days apart. They spend a lot of time together, and love to talk to each other in weird voices…almost like a secret language. From the beginning, they just clicked. Now they are almost attached at the hip. They even worked at the same place for a while. That happens sometimes…cousins become almost inseparable friends…for life. Looking forward, I can’t say they will always spend as much time with each other, but I do know that no matter where they go or what they do, Christina and Shai will always love each other very much.
Christina has always been a very giving person. She has a real heart for the homeless and needy. She has been known to buy gas for someone who really needs it. Maybe she got that way, because she watched her mom give their last 5 dollars to a family in need when they were stranded, and they didn’t have very much themselves then. Christina likes to buy Christmas presents for people who aren’t going to get any gifts otherwise. She is a very caring person, and it shows in everything she does for others.
Christina is a very strong, brave girl, and she doesn’t let things get her down. Life isn’t always easy for any of us, and it can get pretty daunting, but Christina faces each new challenge with dignity and grace, and that is the best any of us can do. I know that the great traits Christina has will take her wherever she wants to go in life. Today is Christina’s 18th birthday. Happy birthday Christina!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
I was talking to my Aunt Sandy yesterday, and she was telling me some things she found out about my grandparents, her mom and dad, that she had never heard before. It made me realize just what amazing people they were. And yet, you would never have heard my grandparents tell of any of the deeds they did, because they weren’t in it for the glory…they were in it because there was a need, and they couldn’t bear to let someone be in need and not help out. Even their own kids didn’t know, and they were right there!!
This was during the Great Depression, and many people found themselves out of work, and in a lot of trouble, because if you had no money, you and your family just might starve to death. During those years, many an extra mouth was fed at my grandmother’s table. It was well known to those who were homeless and broke. They would show up at the door, and as some have told it later, my grandma would simply add some more water to the soup, and a little more of what she had, usually potatoes, and pull up another chair for that stranger in need. It was an act of kindness that most of us wouldn’t dare do today, because you never know what kind of person they might be, but as I said, times were different. People…even the homeless and desperate had values and morals, they would never bite the hand that fed them, nor the hands of their family.
The kids knew about the help given to a stranger in need, but they didn’t know about the family of children, whose parents drank away the paycheck, and had nothing left for food on the table. Giving money to the parents would do no good, so my grandparents bought bags of groceries and took it over for the kids. These kids were friends of my aunt, and yet neither they nor my grandparents ever told of the secret supplies they had received, or where they came from…until just recently, when one of those kids told someone else, and my cousin overheard, how their lives had been saved by those acts of kindness. There was no public knowledge of those supplies. Those kids didn’t have to feel embarrassment or shame about what their parents did, or how they all stayed alive…because only those kids and my grandparents knew anything about it.
My grandparents didn’t have much money back then…nobody did, but they still gave to those in need!! And the real miracle here is that my grandparents and their own 9 children always had enough to eat. They never went hungry!! How can that be? The food on their table had started out as enough for the family, and then food was added as needed, but from what? They didn’t have a lot of money to buy extra to keep feeding the many people who came and went from their kitchen in those tough years, and yet somehow there was always enough. Well, I don’t know what you think, but I think God had found two people who were willing to be givers in this earth, and He partnered with them. He said, “If you are willing to give to the needy…I will provide whatever you need to meet their needs!” Yes, my grandparents were known for their acts of kindness…all the way up to Heaven!!