This season marks the 21st year that the New York Botanical Garden is holding its annual Holiday Train Show. The train show runs until JAN. 13, 2013.
Designed by Paul Busse, the show is a combination of model trains running past New York City landmarks made of plant materials set in the main conservatory of the garden.
The following story is a personal anecdote regarding the show some years ago.
Public service and burnout are often intertwined.
I was working for AmeriCorps (domestic version of the Peace Corps) at a social services center in New Jersey. Clients I had been working with were not doing well. The site supervisor forced me to try fixing a long-standing institutional problem.
All my efforts are not helping people.
Christmas was fast approaching. Three colleagues and I took a group of children from the center to the NY Botanical Garden for its annual holiday train show. Toy trains run alongside models of New York landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. The models are made out of plant material.
Our group started in the Children's Garden, where exhibits teach kids about horticulture.
A girl stands apart from the group. AB in an agitated state said the other children would not let her participate in an educational computer game. I ease and encourage her into the game.
Thanks to my three colleagues handling the group, I can give AB one-on-one attention.
She accepts my hand as we next explore a perennial garden filled with flowers like asters and chrysanthemums. AB asks about things she may well be seeing for the first time, I do my best to answer her questions.
Between the perennial garden and central conservatory, there is a walkway.
AB sees a man-made pond and asks for a coin to make a wish. I give her a penny; she thinks for a moment and then tosses the coin in.
With my focus on AB, I hadn’t noticed other children (not from my group, of course) were now flinging coins across the room. I take her by the hand and quickly escort her away from the flying projectiles. In the safety of the main conservatory, we slow to a halt.
“Can you be my dad?” AB said.
Floored, I pause a beat... in order to find a reply.
“I don’t know about being your dad for the long term, but I can be your dad for the day.”
"Okay!" she said gleefully. AB bolts for the train show and I trail close behind.
By just being herself, she had jolted me out of my self-absorbed, blue mood. Even today, AB remains a touchstone that serving others even in a small way nourishes the spirit.
This I believe.
Getting to the garden: From Grand Central Station take Metro North's Harlem Line to the Botanical Garden stop, the trip takes approximately 20 minutes.
Admission: Adults $25; Children (ages 2 -12): $15.