This morning, I received another message about Rio and the train. I get notices like these every couple of weeks. You see, last fall around the end of September, Rio and I experienced something quite special. I wrote about it on my personal Facebook profile and it quickly went viral.
The most amazing and heartwarming thing happened this morning. My family's business moved into their new location about three years ago. It's located right along the train tracks which means we get a front row seat to all of the locomotive action. My daughter lives for it. It didn't take long for the conductors to notice her waving to them and for them to return those waves. As time progressed, it became their ritual. They'd blow their whistles, she'd run to the window, they'd open their windows, and everyone would wave and smile ear to ear. I teared up almost every single time.
Then a few weeks ago, my daughter started school.
Her transition to daily school hit me a little harder than I was expecting, but it hit me the hardest the first day the train came when she wasn't there. They blew their whistles, they opened their windows, but I was the only one standing there just crying and weakly waving. The next day I made a sign. I simply wrote 'She started school.' I heard the whistle, ran to the window, and held up my sign. That was three weeks ago.
This morning almost minutes after I walked into the shop, someone knocked on the door. It was a man in a bright yellow shirt with ear plugs hanging down. I assumed he was a construction worker coming to talk construction, because that's what we do here. I was wrong. He was there to ask about the little girl with the blonde hair that waved to the trains. He was one of the conductors and they'd all been wondering what had happened to her. Today they'd had a short train, so they stopped down the tracks, walked to our building, and knocked on our door. Oh did I cry. They had seen my sign, but couldn't make out what it said. They had assumed she'd started school, but had to make sure. He said that her waves had made their days. For three years they'd shared these moments.
They want to do something for her; they miss her. He asked if they could send her something, to which I said of course! They are going to send her a birthday present in a few weeks.
Witnessing their unconventional friendship over the past several years has been nothing short of magical. To know it impacted them just as much as it impacted us, fills me with love and hope. The visit today and their ongoing kindness to my daughter has reaffirmed my faith in goodness and humanity. These are moments we'll always remember.
Give yourself a moment. It still chokes me up.
So, after I wrote the post and shared the two photos also shared here, I started getting messages and comments from friends asking me to make the post public. I'm really fairly private online, and I see the absurdity in saying that as I write on my public blog, but when it comes to my kid, I share very, very little. I finally decided to make it public for a few reasons. I felt like it was a story that people needed to hear - we all needed uplifting! I also felt like it didn't share much personal information and the photos didn't show her face. Soon after making it public, a friend tagged a page called Love What Matters. I'd never heard of it, but apparently most of the internet has. They sent me a message and asked if they could share the story. I talked to Brent and we gave them the OK to share.
Then I went on my way to teach a Grammar class for two hours. When I came out, my phone was on fire. I had comments and messages overflowing and the Love What Matters post was quickly becoming mighty popular. It was overwhelming and amazing. For the first time EVER, I didn't see any negative comments on a viral post; it was all beautifully positive.
That night, I found myself very worried because I hadn't asked the conductors if I could share the story or not! The gentleman who had come to the door had exchanged information with me. I quickly sent him an email letting him know what had happened in the virtual world after he had left . He was in just as much shock as I and was fine with the story being shared. I sighed a breath of relief.
The following days were crazy. I was contacted by countless news outlets, some VERY big and reputable. I only communicated with Good Morning America (I KNOW!), but in the end I didn't feel right about sharing her story with the world any further in that manner. Even though I did not give permission to other publications to share the story, they went ahead and did so. The headlines often made me laugh heartily. "Conductors Saw Sign In Window, You'll Never Believe What Happened Next" and the like. It was shared on allllllll sorts of sites all over the world. I think I printed it up for Rio in 5 or 6 different languages? It was expansive. This story seemed to touch everyone.
Even though I thought I had my social media on a pretty tight lock down, some stories had photos of our family and Rio's face. I did contact those outlets asking that those photos be removed. After a while though, I couldn't contact them all, so I let it be. I can't imagine what it is like for those who have a negative or damning story go viral! The internet is a strange, strange place.
After a week, I made my original post private but the Love What Matters post is still active with 17K engagements. The comments are gold.
Two weeks later was Rio's fifth birthday. Our train friends, dubbed the Choo Choo Crew, dropped off a few train related presents for her. While invited to the party, they were unable to make it. We enjoyed a small backyard party with a few family and friends and lots of train-themed activities for the afternoon. She doesn't know or understand the virtual side of the story, and at this point in her life, she doesn't need to.
Since then, I've become friends with the Crew online and I receive and return their waves until Rio has breaks from school. On those days, the waves and smiles are twice as big. I do feel that this is a story that should be shared so I'm currently (slowly) working on turning it into a children's book. It just feels right.