I’ve always liked the sound of a train horn echoing through the night.
There is something about it that is comforting to me, especially as I’m lying in bed in the middle of the night, feeling alone and disturbed after a strange or frightening dream. It is interesting because I have always lived somewhere where I could hear trains. It doesn’t matter how far away I am from the tracks. Somehow that long, haunting train call makes its way through the still night and greets me where ever I’m at.
It reminds me of when I was little, lying awake in my bed scared out of my mind of the things in the dark. Silence has always been scarier to me than the loudest of noises. There is something about dead air that leaves me feeling more alone and vulnerable than the onslaught of sound. So in the middle of the night, wrapped up in the terror of childhood nightmares, I would hear a train call in the distance and know that I wasn’t alone in the world. The sounds would break the illusion of silence and isolation.
Even now, at 21, I feel that same sense of comfort whenever I hear a train. I’m not scared of the dark anymore and it is never silent here in Southern California, but something about the sound of trains still soothes me.
I feel like there is a bigger metaphor there but I can’t see it. As it is, the sound of the late night train horn also brings me comfort because it reminds me of God. Not so much that God resembles a train horn or that he is calling out to me, or anything of the sort. Rather, it reminds me of God because it reminds me there are other people out there in the world. There are weary travelers on an Amtrak heading to their next destination. Tired freight train drivers making their way to their next delivery. Even when I’m alone in my room, bundled beneath my blankets, feeling completely isolated from the world I feel connected when I hear the sound of a train.
There are people out there in this big world that I’m a part of and through the lonely call of a train in the dead of night I’m connected to them and therefore connected to God. You see, I think that the best way to connect to God is through realizing we’re connected to other people. How are we supposed to acknowledge a higher power is with us when we cannot even acknowledge that real, tangible human beings are with us? We can’t. I can’t. I think in order to know God I have to know other people because we were created to be in relationship. We see God through being in relationship with each other.
So when I hear the old familiar sound drifting through the night air, meeting me where I’m at, all curled up in my bed alone, I remember that I’m not actually alone. It helps me sleep a little easier.