My first plane ride was at 26. Growing up, we didn't have much money...which meant that our family vacations tended to stay within a 20 mile radius of home. As time went on, I found myself cultivating not only a fear of heights, but also of strong, rapid movement. This led to me staying far, far away from rollercoasters and other fast rides, and sometimes even the swingset could make me dizzy and miserable. What a sad, boring childhood. At 26, I decided to face my fear and take my first plane ride. I had so many places I wanted to go; I refused to let a terror of flying hold me back from exploring the world. I decided to fly to New Orleans by myself, since it wasn't TOO far, and it was a place I had been fantasizing about for a while. As I waited for my section to be called, I started to sweat. Up until that point, the plane ride hadn't been quite real to me; now that I knew it was almost time to step onto the plane, my heart began to race. I took deep breaths, trying to calm myself. I can usually talk myself out of succumbing to stressful situations, but as I sat there in the hard airport chair, I vacillated between wanting to cry and wanting to vomit.
As my knuckles whitened on the arms of the chair, I caught a woman with a book glancing at me from the corner of her eye. She seemed hesitant to approach me, but finally came to sit beside me.
"Not a fan of flying?" she asked.
"First time," I answered. "And I'm kind of nervous about it."
"I can see that," she replied. "Can I see your ticket?"
I handed it over. "Okay," she said, "You're sitting pretty close to me, and this flight isn't nearly full. I'll come by and talk you through it if you don't have a seat partner."
I could feel my jitters giving way to an immense sense of gratitude. This woman, a perfect stranger, took the time to approach me and take care of me simply because she could see I was struggling. How often does this happen?
As it turned out, the flight was less than half-full. This woman sat beside me, started a conversation to distract me from my fears, and even offered to hold my hand as she watched me grow deathly pale during take-off.
It seems so simple, almost insignificant...a random stranger chatting you up during a stressful time...but it really stayed with me. She could have remained entrenched in her book. She could have simply not said or done anything, and I wouldn't have judged her for it. But instead, she chose to take care of a stranger. And to this day, I try to pass it on if I can. I'm comfortable in airports, so if I see someone who looks like they need help, I'm not afraid to step in and try to assist. I know how much it meant to me back then, and I like to pay it forward.
I had planned another blog topic for today, but this one was inspired by a discussion on a forum on Quora. If you have a few minutes, I highly encourage you to check out this link:
Reading this made my morning, and I know that you will all get a lot out of it as well!