I HAVE a vivid memory of how excited I was the first time I was going to fly. I can’t remember my exact age or even where we were going. But that feeling of joy, amazement and thrill remains so very vivid. My body seemed to have a life of its own back then. I could hardly stand still. For days I told people of my pending flight high up in the sky. I would even point up to make sure they got the point, so that they could see the shiny little plane way up there. I planned to make one of those cool white stripes behind the plane. I just didn’t know how. I didn’t ever get round to asking my dad, mom or the pilot about that. Nor about how they shrink the plane so that it gets so small in the sky.
Then the travel day came and it seemed so loud and busy. There was no time for my endless stream of questions and bursts of joy. At the airport, tons of people rushed back and forth with big bags and suitcases. They looked like ants running with their stuff back and forth. They seemed so focused, not at all approachable. And then there were the lines, the papers to check and those small books called passports. A lady put our luggage on a black belt so it would go on a journey of its own, or so I thought. Mom said we would get it back later.
Now the years have passed and I can hardly detect any of the excitement of my first day on a plane. Of course, I still get excited if I’m on my way to a beautiful resort, a great meeting, a new place or a thrilling city. But the journey itself brings little exhilaration. Now it is all about comfort. I’m delighted if I fly with an airline that has good seats, meals and service. But none of that makes my heart pump an extra beat.
But maybe today will be a little different. I have been sitting at the gate and admiring this really handsome gentleman. There is something about this man that really interests me. He has a most charming smile that makes his eyes twinkle. I noticed that when he was talking and laughing on the phone. I also noticed the absence of a ring on his finger, and then I heard him ending his phone call by saying, “OK John, I’ll see you back at the office.” He wasn’t sweet-talking a girlfriend! I try to hide my interest and start boarding the plane.
The seat next to me is still empty. I see the man, my man. He is the last one walking down the aisle. I cross my fingers and think of what will ensue: playful conversation, butterflies and a wonderful romantic match. I even have time to see us on a passionate trip to an exclusive destination. The short distance down the aisle takes forever because of the lady in front of him. She seems to take up the entire plane with a cluster of bags and screaming kids. I can hardly see my man behind her. She stops next to me. I close my eyes. What a different trip this will be. Then the sound of crying kids continues down the aisle. My stomach jumps. To calm myself and seem unaffected I grab something out of the seat pocket. I try to build up my nerve to turn, smile and say hi, when I hear a voice say, “Hello.” I turn and feel totally confused when I look up and into the big open smile on a sweet elderly man’s face. Where did he come from? I squeeze out a smile. “You know, there’s great wisdom in that.” I assume he is referring to the emergency pamphlet I’m clutching. “We always have to take care of ourselves first before we can be of any good to others.” He giggles with delight. We wind up immersed in a fascinating conversation. His wisdom, wit and abundant life experience inspires me. By the end of the journey he has reconnected me with old but such important knowledge. I am in charge of my life. He has reminded me and rekindled my confidence so that once again I believe I can make anything happen. I tell him about the time I wanted to make white stripes in the sky. He giggles and says, “Maybe you can’t make vapor trails behind a plane but you sure can light up a life trail. Live fully and with passion so you are happy when you look back. Don’t let good chances pass you by. Lost chances make dark regrets.” I let all of his wisdom seep in and then made a brave decision. I promised myself to smile and say hi to my man before the suitcases are done with their journey. Who knows what that will lead to? tj
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