What I’ve been reminded of, had reinforced in short successive meetings, is much broader scope than my personal epiphany.
The glimpse we’re given into the lives of Abraham and Sarah sets the tone: belief in and worship of Almighty Most High, deep family ties – not ties that choke but ties that rescue when in need, hospitality to travelers, and care and concern for others unknown.
Application of those principles is something I often struggle with. I don’t know which upheld “I need ______” sign to trust as I pass a forlorn beggar, nor do I trust my ability to judge safety when a traveler is sitting along the ramp of a busy interstate.
Touched with emotion, I keep moving past. I don’t stop, I don’t make eye contact except to flash a quick smile of greeting, hoping that they understand my dilemma.
What I’ve just found that I am able to do is to lend an ear when an opportunity arises. My opportunity was four plane rides during the transport to and from our work conference destination. Safely ensconced in a crowded plane, my trusty coworkers scattered throughout the cabin, I was able to let down my typical guard and converse.
Through the brief conversations, I met several people, and received a distinct impression – a heart print – from each and every one.
I’d like to introduce them to you:
Passenger One, the tall, balding NY Times reader, with a paunch. He was likely in his early to mid-sixties. He was very polite, yet somewhat brisk and professional, nearly British in his demeanor. He exchanged basic pleasantries and asked where I was going, then a little about my employer.
Side-tracked by the pilot announcements, I left it at that and chatted with the very helpful passenger on my left side. Once that conversation had run its course, I recognized that I had not inquired about the Times reader’s destination.
There was a shift in demeanor, a sudden letting loose of the rigidity, the polite standoff. As he turned to answer, I saw the pain in his eyes – a soft pain, but still very evident.
He was going to New York to visit his mother. She had recently had a very serious illness (which he did not elaborate upon and I did not ask) and was still hospitalized. He talked with a wry smile about how she loved the city life and he could not get her to budge and move closer.
No other family in the area, her friends long gone, this 93-year-old city gal was going out in her own terms. And he was dutifully and frequently doting upon her to see her through the journey.
I told him I hoped the best for her and for him as well when we parted. His thank you and kind smile were genuine.
Passenger Two, the frumpy, nervous-Ned, whose eyes darted frantically out the window, then to the onboard monitor. He was likely in his late 50’s, salt and pepper, with submissive demeanor – self-deprecating almost.
As I glanced toward the window, nervous-Ned mistook my glance as curiosity for his actions on the touch screen. He began to explain that he had a short delay between flights and was previewing the gate for his next leg of the trip.
Curious, I looked to see what he meant and he helped me navigate the new American Air monitors to see ‘my flight’ and the airport terminal map. A perfect opportunity to learn.
Continuing, in his nervous way, he explained that he was traveling to NV to attend two weeks of education. He is an administrative law judge and I’m sorry to say that I got distracted by that fact as he further explained his job. I was connecting the persona to the position and my prior experiences with such.
A very pleasant man, he talked a bit about his downtime and possible travel plans – staying in a motel in Vegas but with not one iota of interest in the gaming community.
Next leg of the flight, Passenger Three, the vivacious 62 yr old brunette, with fantastically lovely cornrow braids that sparkled as she talked – and talk she did! Our conversation began when I stated with matter of fact that she had my admiration for stepping across me so deftly to access her window seat. I didn’t see her coming and then she was suddenly there.
She launched right into her travel logs, excitement oozing from every word. I heard of her overwhelm with work and living the life she thought she wanted in Phoenix, I heard of her HUGE family of origin and the pride and love for them, I heard of her welcoming her nephew who would live with her during his college education. I then heard her dreams to return ‘home’, to get back to her roots and live closer to family – as soon as the boy’s college was complete. She cautioned me to Phoenix traffic, told me not to take it personally when folks weren’t nearly so kind and we gave each other good cheer as we parted.
Flying back home, the flight to Dallas, Passenger Four, the intense and nervous beauty, with deeply drawn lines, but sparkling eyes (when they were not clouded with concern). She was a quiet-ish sort, nearly suggesting submissive, yet her eyes held a longing to be close, to confide.
When I asked her destination, she said to a military stop, and then on to many flights. My eyes held hers for a moment, hesitant to ask, not certain if she cared to share – and then she did. She explained that she was going to Baghdad, as an interpreter at the embassy there.
Short notice given, she had packed as many belongings as she might possibly be able to carry, to serve in the ‘crisis’. She would only have the things she brought, to begin with – her lodgings would be in a small box-like ‘room’. The last time she was there, it was for three years. Conditions were different, it seemed… this time.
There had been an emergency evacuation, you see, she’d heard from a friend there. They were told to put what they could in backpack and get the hell out NOW! Everything they owned was forever lost, unless it fit in the backpack. This is where she was going, to do what she was hired to do, to fit the need she’d determined she could fill.
We talked about many things, and I can only hope that the unburdening gave her a small moment of relief. There is a situation, and we only know the tip of the iceberg – and she didn’t share information she should not share – but I am an observer, that’s what I do best, and I looked deep into her eyes and saw sorrow that I only know the edge of.
She touched me, squeezed my heart – and I reached out a hand, placed on her arm and told her I hoped for safe travels for her. Then she strapped on her 70 lb. backpack, this petite, yet sturdy version of citizenship; hoisted her second carry-on, and moved forward.
On the last leg home, I was pensive, seated for the late arrival of Passenger Four, the beautiful youth, a blond fawn-like creature, with demure eyes and obvious over-seas ways. She strapped on a headset immediately and plugged in to the seat back, appearing to shut out the world around her.
Then, after take-off, she had removed the ‘electronic wall’ and glanced furtively at me. I smiled. She smiled. She leaned toward me and asked if they would serve something to drink on the flight – yes, they certainly should. ‘Good, I need fluids’, she said.
Definitely international – but very good English, I asked where she was heading and the conversation ensued. A native Bulgarian, she was looking forward to college in a small Kansas town. Her primary reason for the change was to play basketball, something she’s done for the past twelve years. She wants to study psychology and be a mentor for at-risk children, particularly those entering school and kindergarten aged.
She spoke of home with a strong mix of pride, and sadness. Her community is mired in hopelessness, you see. They’re poor and give up all hope when their youth is diminished. She challenged me to keep forging ahead, to live life as fully as possible – and to visit her country.
I challenged her to contact me, to have a home away from home, as a newly adopted member of our family.
“Earth’s crammed with heaven…
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”
An epiphany this morning… and more to follow, soon.
You cannot take the country out of the girl, it seems.
I’m surrounded by posh beyond my normal sphere, yet I’m drawn to the simpler things.
I’m traveling for work and we’re staying at a very nice resort. I’m ever so thankful that there are beautiful scenes like this to enjoy while here in the lovely Scottsdale area.
“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”
It’s fairly humiliating to find that your intelligence will not protect you from stupidity.
This past Sunday, after a nice and relaxing glass of wine (OK, it was a tall glass – but it really was only one), I determined it was high time to take the SUV to the car wash.
Quarters safely entrusted to the machine, high powered wash correctly chosen, I set upon the task with my mind free to wander as my body took over.
Then a stubborn little spot on the rear window caught my attention and I reached out to help it along with my fingers…
Let me tell you – any who have not thought about it – skin in the direct path of a high pressure water wand will lose the battle! Instantaneously! Painfully! Memorably!
My husband’s reaction when I showed him the angry wound and asked if he knew a car wash wand could do that was “No, I’ve never known anyone who did that. It’s pretty much common sense that 2000 lbs of pressure will hurt you.”
Really? It had not once occurred to me.
I can pick up the nuances of any software I’ve encountered in a VERY short period of time. I can decipher instructions, read complicated writings, calculate on the fly, plan and organize, and a few other odds and ends. Why do simple things elude?
I cannot decide if it’s a brain disconnect when faced with everyday situations, or if it’s an intelligence fault. Is there a particular area of the brain that handles common sense? If so, is it an area that can be intentionally developed, or are some people prone to learning only by the ‘school of hard knocks’?
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
I remember well when my rusty old swing in the back was traded in and in its place, a fancy and shiny blue swing-set with bold white stripes candy-caned around the legs of the set, with a few real swings, and a little swinging carriage for two.
It was an awesome sight, but an unwelcome acknowledgement that it was not mine. It was ours, purchased to share with my siblings. This translated in my ears to ‘no longer important’. It was really them who had gained importance, them for whom the swing was bought.
I can’t explain sibling resentment. Where did it ferment, and how and why? I only know that it did. I know that swing-set was a turning point, an awareness of competition for a shared outdoor space that I had previously manned alone.
Looking at a set of photos snapped during a christmas-present-opening affair, I see the resentment.
I wear it in my posture, ooze it from my expression, project it from my eyes, as I hold my Fisher Price schoolhouse, with magnet letters and little peoples; likely comparing it to the shiny twin tricycles that my siblings are excitedly mounting alongside me.
The irony is that there is another picture of Sis and Bro on their trikes, with me alongside them, all dressed in winter gear, and I’m mounted on a lovely blue bike with lovely long chrome handlebars and a beautiful white banana seat.
Did I acquire that just after the first picture, or was it acquired during the year, likely for a birthday and posed months later? I couldn’t resist, I went back and looked at that picture and notice that my hairstyle is drastically different and I look a bit older. I would say that it was the next fall/winter when the picture was taken, meaning that the bicycle was likely a birthday present from late summer.
It truly does not matter. The fact is, I did not like sharing. My time. My space. My toys. My parents. My yard, my house, mine, mine, mine. I did not like them, can’t make me, I don’t!
I’m really just guessing that’s how it was, I really don’t recall. That’s what the picture tells me – the one with the Fisher Price schoolhouse.
Honestly? I do not remember the occasion at all. What I recall from the picture is the cardboard fireplace, propped against the wall to hang socks from, to resemble an apparatus an expected jolly fat man might come through.
The humor in that does not escape me.
“When we traded homemaking for careers, we were implicitly promised economic independence and worldly influence. But a devil of a bargain it has turned out to be in terms of daily life. We gave up the aroma of warm bread rising, the measured pace of nurturing routines, the creative task of molding our families’ tastes and zest for life; we received in exchange the minivan and the Lunchable.”