This may be a first for me. The first time I have started a blog post with these words “my eyes are filled with tears as I write these words”. You can’t see me, so I am revealing that truth to you. By the time I edit the post, I may have dried my own tears. Gotten my emotions under wrap and felt less fragile.
This is not about life and death. Or monumental loss. It is about a slow death and losing out. Sacred and holy moments encircle us. God has presented us with glory upon glory. This is a sharing of grief at what might not have been. This is a story of being open to wonder, possibility and the richness of meeting a stranger.
Recently, I was on a plane returning from Boston, during the last leg, the La Guardia to Charleston leg I was admittedly drained and a shell of myself. It was like I had left it all on the mat. I’d been to a hospital with a friend. And yet, I felt as if someone had hooked me up to an IV and sucked the lifeblood out of me.
I had flown to Boston for a whirlwind visit, to accompany a friend for one day at Mass General Hospital. Can a day feel like a week? This day, filled with Ubers and airports and fabulous Italian food and Charles Street window shopping and digging down deep into the well of friendship was wonderfully full.
For obvious reasons we had hoped and planned to sit together on each of the four legs of the trip. We were having rich conversations and building on our rather new friendship.
Things happen. Unexpected things. Wake you up things that begin with an airline employee or two that could not accommodate our request. I was separated from my companion and seated beside a pleasant stranger. Here was my opportunity to just rest. I gave myself permission to ignore my seatmate. He had a kind smile, a quiet presence and a boyish but fast becoming a man face. Curl up and process my trip, that was my rather selfish goal. (Well curl up as well as one can in a cramped airplane.) I was too weary to read or talk. I was “conversationed out.” But while my plans were to close my eyes, my mouth and my mind, the young man beside me was there to school me. Teach me to stay awake to the possibility of wonder.
Somewhere mid-air my heart softened and we began to chat. What would follow would be a deep conversation about life and death, his grandmother’s and my mother’s. What would follow would be his telling of his career in medicine, his plans to move to Seattle to follow a dream and his upcoming trips to visit friends in Finland and to Prague.
He was young and full of wanderlust. Wise beyond his years. Kind and gentle. I was grateful that the invisible curtain between us was ripped to shreds. I was grateful that I gave him a ride once we landed and that I had another hour in the car to learn more about life through a stranger’s enthusiastic teachings. Passion is contagious, especially when it is laced in gentle kindness.
I have missed hundreds of chances to intersect with glory. Been closed to seeing or being seen. Been prone to stay masked. This time. This one time on a plane with one gentle stranger I woke back up, again. To what rests and waits in quiet possibility.
How much richer is life, how much sweeter is the wandering when we catch hold of the eyes of someone seated in the row beside us. Those bumping elbows, knocking knees, unknown souls, they have a story to tell too.
Are we listening? Because of the wonders of social media I follow my new friend and he follows me, on Instagram. And he sent me a thank you note for the ride which allowed him to avoid one very expensive Uber ride to his destination far north of the airport. My friend’s husband picked us up and provided my new friend with a lovely historical narrative of Charleston as we made our way to my car, parked at their home.
This was his first trip to the South. I almost blew it. I almost caused him to think, what Southern hospitality? What grace? He gave me more than I gave him. But I hope he saw a piece of a shred of a thread of something which said, welcome. We are glad you are here.
How rich and lovely to have a new friend and to be seen and to see. Now there is one less stranger in the world.
Perhaps we said to each other, not in words but in deeds…
You are seen. And you are heard. And you have a beautiful story to tell.
Follow me on Instagram where I am looking out for wonder, beauty and the extraordinary in the ordinary. (@graceappears on Instagram)
Here is a poetic offering from today’s Instagram post. Follow the link to see the image and the post in its entirety.
Be there to hear the tree fall in the woods
Be there to see the goose lay the golden egg
Be there to touch the invisible line between now and then
Be there to smell something fishy
All wonder and marvelous mystery need you to testify
And say “I saw”
Be the beholders
Be the ones who witness the unfolding, unraveling and unmasking
Right here is a marvelous place to be
A witness to it all