My travel season for work is now in full swing. That means plenty of airplanes, a strategically organized carry-on, and pre-arranged Apple Music playlists as I move about the country doing my part to improve the medical school experience for current and future medical students and faculty. Airports aren’t necessarily one of my favorite places although I do enjoy traveling to new places, particularly if the exploration is not on my dime 😉 However, it always seems as though most people are in a rush, confused, and allergic to smiling. And for the life of me I can’t figure out why people who have assigned seats on an airplane will crowd the gate just before it’s time for them to board?! Yes, I know you want to make sure there’s a space for your carry-on, but you’re in Zone 3! Ma’am…sir…what are you doing? There are like 75 other people boarding before you that you’ll be standing behind on the jet bridge. Rest yourself and please stop obstructing my perfect view for people watching. Ok, back to the post…
Most people are in their own world when in an airport and in life in general, which makes it easy to miss opportunities that can leave a meaningful imprint in the present surroundings. On a recent trip, I was seated next to a gentleman who was gracious enough to introduce himself and exchange a few kind words before we took off. I must admit I was surprised since I’m used to only hearing complaining passengers and the boisterous voice of the flight attendants over the intercom directing my attention to their safety presentation. But, I appreciated this guy’s conversation, because it meant that he was wise enough to not take life too seriously and capable of setting himself aside to acknowledge the worth of those he encountered along the way. That was light in the middle of my extra long day of flight delays, gate changes, and overpriced sky snacks. The best part about it all was that I had the opportunity to return the kindness.
As we reached our cruising altitude among the cumulus clouds, I saw that he was reading notes printed in incredibly small text. I was engaged in the same enriching activity so I was using my overhead light. Earlier I noticed he had reached up to turn his on as well, so I assumed the shining light on our row was from both lights. After a few minutes of reading, something told me to look up, which is when I saw that the light above was only coming from my side. He had been reading for probably about an hour trying to share my light! Part of me felt badly because I hadn’t noticed sooner and couldn’t do anything to save this guy’s pupils, but all I had was now to make up for it and let him know that I did indeed care that his light had blown out. I proceeded to readjust my light so that it was shining directly on his manuscript. He smiled and expressed his gratitude, and we both continued our in flight activities, which by that time mine had switched to sleeping for me. Although sharing my light was a small act of kindness for someone I’d probably never see again, I knew it was the right thing to do. It was also a good lesson.
We should all be mindful of those opportunities we have to brighten someone’s outlook. So, whether it’s to help someone see what they’re reading or maybe see where they’ve gotten off the path, be the one who illuminates this fast-paced, and sometimes brash world with your light of tenderness, joy, and thoughtfulness. Seat backs and tray tables up. We’re ready for takeoff toward another week of an amazing journey!