A Gift From the Bus Station

Hailey Skinner // Tales From the Trenches


May 8  

I sat in the bus station after a long day, my legs weary and back strained. After a weekend apart from my husband and a day spent hiking with our very heavy nine-month-old strapped to my chest, I was worn out. Taking care of a baby is hard work. Doing it alone is even harder. 

The baby was fast asleep, finally. Hearing the sound of children playing, I looked up. Across the station was a family with a toddler pulling things out of his mother’s bag and an infant bouncing in her father’s lap. He kissed her forehead. I smiled. But as I watched, the scene that followed broke my heart. 

The toddler searched for toys and asked to be played with, but the parents’ eyes remained glued to their phones, and without turning her head, the mother swatted him away from her purse. The infant began to cry, and she was thrust into the mother’s arms to be nursed and thrust back to the father when she finished. 

I gave my son a kiss on the forehead. My first thoughts, I am embarrassed to admit, were of criticism. “How could parents be so negligent? Why aren’t they paying any attention to their kids or to each other? I would never treat my child or my husband that way.” As these thoughts swarmed my mind, the mother looked up from her phone for a mere moment and met my gaze. I was startled. “Could she tell what I was thinking? Was she having a hard day? Was she perhaps looking to me for support?” I offered a smile, and she looked back down at her phone. 

At that moment, I received a great grace as my heart was moved to compassion, and I began to pray. For this family, for families around the world, and for my own—to be holy, to know the love of God, to realize the dignity of the mission entrusted to them. I was reminded of Pope Saint John Paul II’s Letter to Families, in which he reminds us that “Each family finds within itself a summons that cannot be ignored, and that specifies both its dignity and its responsibility: family, become what you are.”

In a rather profound way, this encounter in the bus station has challenged me to love my family better each day, and I have gained three insights that may seem simple but have impacted me greatly. First, just because I am married does not mean that I am guaranteed to have a loving marriage. It requires our continued choice and effort to love, forgive, and sacrifice for one another. Second, the greatest gift we can give to our children is parents that are faithful to God and one another, giving them stability and confidence in their identity. Finally, it became clear that we are greatly in need of prayers, and this filled me with the conviction to pray for other families. May we all realize our mighty role in God’s plan for salvation—starting in our hearts and in our homes, and perhaps even in the bus station.

Proclaim the Genius & Share!
  • Thank you, Hailey! Your reflection is beautiful and heartfelt. I have always loved this quotation from St. John Paul II. What a privilege and enormous challenge it is!

    • Amen! Yes, it’s one of my favorite quotations. I’m glad you enjoyed this reflection, and thank you for your comment!

  • Moved me to tears! Thank you for your thoughtful disclosure and the three points. They are so wise. Your husband and son are fortunate to have you!

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