Many years ago, Sarah, Joy and I traveled to Europe with a friend and had quite an adventure making our way to our final destination. The lesson we all learned that day was that after a difficult day, even the most simple meal can seem a feast!
We'd had a lovely day visiting Beatrix Potter's home, but a persistent rain continued. At the end of our visit, we picked up our luggage and slogged half a mile through the constant soaking rain to the train station.
Our train seemed a welcome haven from the cold, dreary day. We secured four seats together, settled ourselves and all our belongings, then spread out crusty bread; pungent cheddar cheese; and grapes for a picnic lunch on a drop-down table. Not long after we had finished eating, four surly people boarded the train, walked right to where we were seated, and said, "You're sitting in the wrong seats. Even though the tag doesn't say the seats are reserved, we reserved them. You'll have to move."
I was tired and worn out, cold and wet, and a little irritated. After several hours, Sarah, my oldest daughter, shouted down to us from her seat toward the front, "Hurry! I just found out that our stop is the next one and there won't be much time to get off."
Once again, the four of us made a spectacle of ourselves as we exited the train, knocking about with all of our paraphernalia, moving as quickly as possible onto a train platform in an unfamiliar station amidst the black darkness of night. Again, we were met with a constant drizzle.
Our first obstacle was a two-story staircase to the street level, which we had to climb with all our heavy bags in tow. We made it to the top with great relief, but we could find no taxis. Our aim was to locate the bed-and-breakfast where we had reservations. An hour later, we were still slogging through the mud and splashing through unavoidable puddles on cobblestone roads. Our jeans were soaked up to our knees, our hair was dripping wet, and our faces were all smudged with melting mascara.
We all plodded on in silent endurance. Finally, at nine o'clock, one and a half hours after we left the train station, we saw our bed-and-breakfast through the dim light of a streetlamp. We knocked and knocked, and finally we glimpsed a small light turn on at the back of the house. The door opened, and a charming, white-haired, lively man greeted us warmly with a deep English lilt.
"I thought you had decided not to come, and I had given up on you on such a miserable night." After we told him our story, he gasped and said, "Why, the train station is more than two miles from here. I can't believe you walked it in this pouring rain!"
It is amazing how grateful one becomes for simple fare after slogging through a day of rain, cold, miles of walking, and growling stomachs! We gathered around a small antique table, surrounded by teapots, Victorian pictures of children and animals, and an eye-feast of collectibles of every kind.
A steaming pot of strong black coffee, a pile of freshly buttered toast served with whipped honey, bananas, and bowls of cereal became for us a victory banquet. Each morsel was delectable to our appreciative growling stomachs. The shared conversation as we crowded together, the laughing, antics, and stories so generously delivered by our charming host made a great memory for us. The immense relief of being out of the rain, in a warm, inviting room, painted our faces with smiles. Our bodies heaved sighs of contentment as we finally pattered up the stairs to bed.
Later, as I lay in a double bed with my daughter Joy snuggling next to me, I told her that she was amazing to have made it through such a day without complaining even once. "I'm so impressed that you could walk that far and carry your own bags and be so cheerful while knowing you were drenched to the bone and exhausted and hungry. I don't think many thirteen-year-olds would have done so well. It was difficult for me, and I've been traveling for more than thirty years. Then you made it until nine o'clock without a bite to eat. And you were very gracious to our host for his simple meal."
"Mom, I feel so proud of myself," she said. "It's like I passed a hard test and now I feel like I'm a real companion to all the adults. I was thinking about how much more grateful I was for cereal and fruit than if I had a five-course meal prepared by a great chef on a normal day. We shared a great adventure, and I proved to myself that I wasn't just a little girl anymore. Even your friend told me that she didn't know a single teenager who could have done so well. I think this might be my favorite memory of the trip so far!"
What an amazing attitude. And how well she put into practice the apostle James's words: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).
How can you encourage your children to persevere in their own difficult situations, today?
This story was shared in Dancing With My Father, available here on Amazon!