Stop to save the snails
This morning was like most other Tuesday mornings in England. Grey and foggy, but with the guarantee that the skies would change several times over the course of the day. Sunglasses and an umbrella on hand.
I arrived at the train station with no recollection of the walk. No memory of what songs played through my headphones. I was deep in thought, but of what I couldn’t even tell you.
I walked down the train platform to the spot I stand in every day. I know that if I stand at a diagonal from the blue lamp post and about two feet to the side of the ever-changing advertising billboard, the last set of train doors will open right in front of me. Unless of course it’s a short formation and I am screwed. But I try to be optimistic.
Just before I got to my preferred spot, I looked down and noticed the tiniest snail I’d ever seen. It was about the size of my pinkie fingernail. (And I bite my nails so imagine it was really small.)
A few steps past, I turned back to take another look. I crouched down next to the snail and watched it for a few seconds. I whipped out my phone, snapped a few pics and walked away.
I didn’t think about including an item to show scale–so often the mistake I make when taking photos–so I went back with a penny. People rushed past me as I conducted my impromptu photo shoot for the second time.
When I got the shot I wanted, I picked the snail up gingerly with a scrap of paper and placed it by the fence. I hope that was the direction the snail was headed. It was certainly the safest place, away from the oblivious people with their noses in books or iPads or mobile phones, far away from the high speed trains.
By the time I got to my spot on the platform, other commuters had closed in. My space had been taken. A chance at a seat on the train was slim.
I see some amazing and interesting things on my commute. I’ve been commuting in some capacity for ten years with eight of them on different modes of transportation in London. That’s nothing compared to others, but it’s been a huge part of my life both daily and yearly. During that hour (plus) journey each direction, you see the best and worst of people. You show the best and worst of yourself.
Seeing that snail made me think.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture on raising children in a fast-paced world. The presenter spoke about making downtime for your children, creating time and space for them to explore and learn on their own, to play make-believe, to look at bugs and plants and the sky. He encouraged the parents in the audience to avoid over-scheduling their children. He cited research where children who had downtime actually developed higher IQs. Unstructured time can be a very good thing. Faster isn’t always better. And that’s not just for children.
I thought about that message all morning. Sometimes it really is worth moving at a snail’s pace. Imagine how much you miss when you don’t take the time to simply take time.
I saved a life today.
And as karma would have it, I got a seat on the train.