One of the decisions my husband and I made when we decided to move to London was to forgo the opportunity of having a car. We live in the city of London so we didn’t want to have to deal with the traffic jams that take hours to get through when you could walk to the same destination within fifteen to twenty minutes or take a train. Another reason we chose to do without a car was to help teach our son a few life lessons that you can’t learn while sitting in a car. Little did we know that giving up the convenience of owning a vehicle would help teach us a lesson or two as well.
Every day we embark on our journey to work and school via public transportation. When I say journey, I literally mean it is a journey. Our day starts and end with walking to the tube station, taking two trains, hopping on a bus and walking a little bit more. Overall it is only about a forty minute journey each way.
People always ask why we don’t just get a car because of how much easier it would make our lives. Yes, it would be easier, but then we would have to forfeit the new adventure that awaits us each day in addition to the lessons learned along the way. Each day greets us with the opportunity to become better individuals by experiencing and exercising virtues such as generosity, service, patience, consideration, foresight, and helpfulness. Here are a few examples of situations we have experienced that have taught us great lessons in virtue.
Generosity & Service
I am a little over eight months pregnant and experience generosity and service almost every time I use the bus or train. Men, women and children go out of their way to offer me their seat so that I may enjoy my ride in comfort. They not only do this for pregnant women but for the elderly as well. It never ceases to amaze me or make my day.
Some people would look at offering your seat up as a small gesture of kindness, but I think it speak volumes about a person’s character. It says I am going to step outside my comfort zone and put someone else’s needs before my own. It says I am going to be generous and share what I have without expecting anything in return just so that someone else can receive joy and happiness. This simple gesture serves as an example to everyone sitting on that train and as a result makes a difference in their life in some way.
When this first happened my son looked at me with confusion and later asked why the man gave me his seat. It was a great opportunity to explain the virtues of generosity and service. Now, my husband and I make it a point to have my son offer his seat for the elderly and women in general, whether they are pregnant or not. He doesn’t always like it and sometimes puts up a fight, but over time he has come to see the importance of his actions and how it affects others.
My son would be the first to tell you that taking public transportation is not always the best experience and can often try your patience. There are mornings that we both dread the forty minute journey, which consists of hundreds of people pushing and shoving in order to cram into a tiny train car. There are times we have experienced people around us who cuss and use uncharitable words towards others while trying to make it on the train.
It is always funny to see my sons shocked face when this happens, but it is also a good thing for him to see as how not to treat others. It is these moments that provide me the opportunity to teach my son about the virtue of patience and charity toward others. Even though the situation or people may be annoying to deal with we still need to remain calm and react in a charitable manner. It reminds us that our actions speak a thousand words.
I love that my son still gets excited to ride the train especially when no one else is on it. On the rare occasion that there is no one on the train I allow him to use the pole that people normally hold on to for support, as his fireman pole. He has the time of his life.
I still remember the first time he tried to do this in a crowded train. He wasn’t very happy when I told him he couldn’t pretend to be a firefighter and he couldn’t pretend that the train was empty. It was a hard but good lesson for him to learn in consideration. I had to teach him that being considerate means being thoughtful of other people’s space and their feelings. It means thinking about how your actions will affect others; will they cause someone anger and frustration or happiness and joy?
Foresight & Helpfulness
Most of the time the trains and buses are fairly clean but, there are times when people leave their trash in their seat or their newspaper on the floor. At the end of each route there are men that go through and pickup all of the trash.
One of the things my son and I have been trying to do is to pickup one piece of trash every time we get off the train so we can be helpful to the men who have to clean up everybody else’s mess. At first my son would say to me, “But mom, this isn’t our job”. I quickly explained that he was right but that didn’t mean we couldn’t be helpful and thoughtful in our actions. I explained that by picking up just one piece of trash on the train we are using foresight because we are being considerate of others and looking at the details that nobody else will. We are thus being helpful because our act of service will make a difference in the lives of the people who ride the train as well as in the lives of the men who have to clean them. Helpfulness is doing something without having to be asked and is about making others’ lives easier.
We have learned a lot of lessons in our many experiences with the public transportation system. These experiences have helped me to see that every part of our day offers us the opportunity to live virtue more purposefully. You don’t have to live in London and use the train to see, learn and live virtue in your life. You can do it when you drive to school, walk your dog, go to the grocery store, help your kids with homework or fill up your gas tank. You just have to be willing to see the opportunities that present themselves to you and act on those by choosing to live a more virtuous life. I challenge you to look at each experience as an opportunity to grow in virtue and challenge your children to do so as well.
Families of Character is an online, discussion-based course that develops character through virtues. If you would like information on the Families of Character program please visit familiesofcharacter.com
By Christie McCormack
Christie graduated from Metropolitan State College of Denver with a BA in Hospitality, Tourism and Events Management. She pursued event planning in various aspects of the event industry for over ten years. Christie recently moved to London with her husband and son. While they are enjoying their time across the pond, they cannot wait to be back in the beautiful state of Colorado in 2016. Christie’s passions in life are family, coffee, event planning, writing and consistently learning how to better herself as well as the people and world around her. If you don’t find Christie with her family or planning the next social event, she is probably writing in one of her favorite coffee shops.