Rain pelted the small oval window as lightning lit up the sky. We began our descent. With just 45 minutes between flights, I could only hope to reach the next gate in time to catch the final flight home. Debarking from my seat at the back of the plane, it was difficult to be patient as passengers ahead of me lugged bags from the overhead compartments and slowly made their way to the exit.
Finally in the airport, I hurried to the flight information display board to locate my next gate and found, much to my chagrin, it was in another terminal. Wanting to get home that night, I literally ran to the next gate. Arriving just in time but out of breath, I received a text message: Flight is delayed. And so it went. Over the next several hours, more flight delay messages were sent to my cell phone from the airline via text. All around me, I witnessed notices of other flights being delayed or cancelled. The hard rain continued outside and the only information waiting passengers received was one phrase: “traffic control.” Finally, another text: “If you would like help rescheduling, please call.”
Making my way to the customer service area, I found a sea of angry, frustrated passengers, but at the airline desk a smiling representative greeted us. This woman was wonderful! Composed, her pleasant demeanor, sense of humor, and eagerness to assist had the power to deflate some of the crowd’s palpable anger. She rebooked me on a direct flight home to Portland. Though this meant getting home at midnight, I was happy knowing I wouldn’t be spending an overnight in the airport.
As I sat at the new gate crowded with passengers, I struck up a conversation with the woman seated next to me, inquiring if she was from Portland or perhaps going to visit. We chatted back and forth about our children (she’s a mother to nine), where they live (all over) and what they are doing (wonderful things!). She explained that on this trip she was travelling with her two youngest daughters, replicating trips to Maine she’s made with their older siblings in previous years. In fact, one of the two daughters, a nurse named AnnaGrace, was wandering around the gate area while her other sister was lounging on the floor.
It was then I noticed my new friend was wearing a black tee-shirt with white lettering that read, “commonbeings.” As we continued chatting, I asked what the tee-shirt meant and she replied that it was her daughter’s creation about common people sharing their stories. I revealed that I had just published Living, Learning, Healing: Inspirational Stories from the Heart, a book about people’s stories. Finally, our plane was ready to board. We said our goodbyes and I made my way to the boarding line.
Soon, a beautiful young woman in a black hat and tee-shirt approached me. On the shirt in white lettering was printed “commonbeings.” AnnaGrace shared with me that her mom had enjoyed our conversation and had told her a bit about me. We talked briefly, laughed some and then AnnaGrace asked if she could find me on Instagram and if she could take a photo of me (yes to both questions). She asked what I thought kept people going and moving through adversity. I paused for just a fleeting moment, and then replied, “Hope.” Though brief, our connection was meaningful; both of us photographers and storytellers with common experiences through these things we love.
At home the following day, I reflected on how grateful I am for chance encounters. Nobody likes waiting hours on end in an airport. Yet it felt good to fill what could have been frustration-time with positive human interaction. As human beings, our stories connect us. But in order to connect, we must take time to pause, notice, question, share, laugh. Too often I look around and see people plugged in but tuned out. If we choose to see and use them, we are given a multitude of “regular” circumstances each and every day that provide opportunities for us to connect with others in ways big and small.
Thank you, AnnaGrace and your mom, for disconnecting in order to connect. And AnnaGrace, best of luck spreading your positive message through your storytelling blog, commonbeings.
I'll see you there!