September 14, 2007

A face from long ago…

Posted in Personal at 12:24 am by Caleb Winn

In the spring of 2003, I took a train to San Jose with Kirsten Flewelling and Josh Nadal. On the way back down, we met a friend. His name was Taylor Gustafson. 

We were leaving the Stockton train station, heading south to the next stop at Bakersfield, where we would transfer to a bus for the trip down to L.A. Just three high school students, two seniors and a junior, sharing some laughs and building some memories. But there was a little boy who didn’t want to be aboard the train. He stood just inside the doors, with tears streaming down his cheeks, begging his mom to let him stay there with her, and not to send him back to live with his dad in Bakersfield. He didn’t want to leave. He was only a little boy, 11 or 12, traveling all alone. His name was Taylor Gustafson.

We saw him crying, and took him under our collective wing. Kirsten was the first to reach out to him, and she invited him to join our little 4-person station aboard the train. We asked him questions about his life, and about school, and told jokes until he cheered up. He was living with his dad, but had been visiting his mom, whom he didn’t want to leave. He was also an enormous Pokémon fan, with the playing cards, trading cards, Game Boy games, toys, and VHS tapes to prove it. Since I had friends and brothers who had played the game, I was able to ask him how his Charmander was doing, and whether it was close to evolving into Charmeleon. We invested just a few short hours into his life, learned just a tiny bit about him, and then it was time to go. His stop came, and we transferred to our bus while he waited for his dad to come pick him up. A sad, smart, interesting young boy, whom I will never see again. His name was Taylor Gustafson.

I’ve been thinking about him, lately. I’ve thought about him several times a week, for months. I’ve wondered how he is doing. I’ve wondered how he is enjoying high school. I’ve wondered if he still plays with Pokémon. And I’ve wondered what his name was. Because for the life of me, I couldn’t remember it, until it hit me tonight. His name is Taylor Gustafson.

I’m not sure why this has stuck with me so much. We barely scratched the surface of his life that Sunday afternoon, and then we parted ways. But there is so much depth, so much pain and joy, that lies far below the surface. There is so much more than we can discover through casual conversation. We cross paths with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people every single day, and do not realize just how much there is to know. Most of the time, I can’t even understand myself. To think that there are 6 billion other people with lives as involved as my own is staggering.

I think of the people who read my blog. I get several hits each day from people searching for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I get other visitors, too. I had several visitors who read my post about Psalm 51 in German. I hope that nothing was lost in translation. And I’ve had visits from people who turned to the sacred oracle of Google to find the answers to deep and important questions like, “Can God forgive me when I’ve hurt others?” and “HOW DO I LET GO AND GIVE TO GOD MY PAIN?”

I know nothing about these people. I can only imagine the heart of somebody who asks Google that sort of question, and looks for the answers among this hodgepodge of Buffy, the Bible, and Freud. What great shame causes them to feel unforgivable? What great pain so burdens their hearts? There is no way to know. I can only hope, and pray, that God used my words to bring some of His great peace and comfort.

There are more than 6 billion people in this world, and they are alive – human beings created in the image of God. Some of them ask complete strangers whether they can be forgiven. Others sit aboard trains by themselves, speeding towards unhappy homes, with only Pokémon to keep them company. 6 billion of God’s children, and I have known and touched so very few.

But there is Taylor Gustafson, a little boy that I met on the train 4 and a half years ago. I wonder how he is doing. And I am glad that I remember his name.



  1. Wow. That’s all I can say.

  2. Karen said,

    Oh, Caleb. That’s compassionate, wise, melancholy, and unique – the perfect thing to read on a rainy, gray day in Washington state. Thanks.

  3. Kirsten said,

    You called me to remember his name! But i forgive the slight manipulation of the truth for the sake of this piece.

    I like how you can sometimes use such inadequate words to proclaim such infinite truth.. ❤

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