Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Blessings From Strangers
It had been bumper-to-bumper traffic approaching the toll plaza to cross the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, even at 6:00 in the morning. The thought had crossed my mind that we might miss our flight. When we finally got to the toll booth, the woman inside took the money from my husband and said “You have a really great day today, OK?” What a blessing her words were, especially since she stands there for hours at a time taking money from one car after another, but still took the time and energy to reach out with what felt like very sincere good wishes.
At the airport we realized that not only were all of our flights full, but we had been assigned to middle seats, one in front of the other. As luck would have it, the only passenger who didn’t make the first flight had the seat right next to me. There were many more bags being stowed in the overhead compartments than there was room for, and the flight attendants were harried, to say the least. I asked one busy attendant about my husband taking the empty seat, and she told me we’d have to wait and see if the other passenger arrived. That made sense, of course, and I thought she’d forget all about my mentioning it with everything she had to do. But right at the last minute she came up and shifted people around, moving my husband up next to me, and asking everyone to do it quickly because we were going to take off. With all of the demands on flight attendants today, she did everything she could to make things a little easier for the travelers in her care. I really appreciated that.
On the second leg of the flight, from Denver to Atlanta, we were again assigned to seats one in front of the other. I was passing a book behind me, to my husband, and the lady in the aisle seat next to me asked how we ended up sitting apart. She offered to trade places with him so that we could sit together, even though it meant giving up her roomier aisle seat to be squeezed in between two others in the row behind. She did that without being asked, just because it was a kind thing to do for a perfect stranger.
I watched a young man grab bags from the overhead compartment for a small, older woman who was traveling alone. People helped mothers with strollers and stepped aside so that others could pass. The last leg of the trip left late, and people cheered and clapped when they announced overhead that no one would pay for in-flight movies.
It’s easy for us to overlook the small things, especially when we are harried and hungry and worried about reaching our destinations when we’re supposed to, but these small gifts happen all the time. We just need to pay attention. Human nature is the embodiment of love, generosity, and kindness.
It could be that I felt these blessings from strangers more strongly because they were strangers, and under no obligation to one another. The action of a stranger reaching out in love is that much more special for its generosity. I watched over and over as people in frustrating circumstances rose to the occasion and tried to do their best for their fellow travelers, knowing that we were all in it together.
May you notice the divine love expressing in the strangers you share a moment with, and may this tool be a blessing. . .