Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chance Encounters

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I was consumed by my own anxiety. I had arrived at the airport 3 hours early only to find the flight canceled. I queued up with the other airline refugees in a controlled frenzy. We looked like bees swarming, and the hum in the air made others look twice.

Something about her penetrated my quiet panic. I was on the phone with my husband trying to ascertain the correct course of action. Could I make it home on the last flight into our regional airport? I saw her, and she held my attention for a few minutes.

Maybe it was because she looked like she had just walked off a NYC runway during Fashion Week? I think it was her composure and her animated conversation with the fellow refugees in line. She looked like the kind of person that easily befriended others – the kind of person you wanted to befriend.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I moved on to my unfamiliar rounds and forgot her. Five hours after my original flight, I boarded the rescheduled flight praying it would be as empty as the first one had looked to be. In a perfect world, I'd end up on the 3-seat side without anyone to invade my space. And there she was. Window seat to my aisle seat. We both nodded a warm acknowledgment and prepared to do what airplane riders do while in transit.

We celebrated the empty middle seat and exchanged a few other pleasantries. I decided my original, fleeting impression was correct. Cheerleader/beauty queen type who had lived a life I had only dreamed of. The kind of physical beauty that made men look twice but an inner beauty that would keep women talking to her if given a chance. Those clothes. Oh my. Something I could have only dreamed of wearing even in my young and thin days of long ago. I commented on her boots, the colors of which matched the turquoise in her trendy top.

I had to laugh at myself as we both settled in behind our respective reading materials. I didn't want to read. I wanted to talk to her. My husband's parting words to me when I had left 7 days before had been, ”Remember! Don't talk to strangers!” He said it mostly in jest. After 22 years, he knows me. I never met a stranger whose brain I didn't want to pick.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Soon enough the flight was ending. The engine whine began to dim. She popped out her ear buds, turned to me, and began to talk. And then, I saw it. Lines of weariness hinted at a heaviness of spirit that had nothing to do with our arduous flying day.

She beamed with pride as she told me of her children. One was an honor roll sophomore in high school. The other, she said, was in K5. I weighed my words as I asked about her parental status guessing rightly that she was a single parent.

The colors of sadness, regret, and brokenness illuminated her face as she explained her decision to remain far from her extended family. She wanted to keep her children close to their hero dad. She avowed his hero status despite the failure of their marriage. Some words tumbled out as if they were a relief to say. Others...I could see that others wanted to come flooding out, but time and circumstances would not allow. How I longed to put us into suspended animation so that we could talk on and on. 

Courtesy B. Creasy
Tears sprang into my eyes. I patted her forearm and told her how courageous she was to be so proactive for her children and their dad. Her breath came out a little ragged around the edges. She wasn't used to that kind of affirmation perhaps? I asked if either had remarried. They had not. My heart skipped a beat.

I wanted to ask all the whys and whats that came to mind. I wanted to ask if there might not be a chance of reconciliation. I heeded my husband's caution knowing I could not tread on such sensitive ground with so little time between us. Someone! Stop the clock. We need time! 

We talked on as the plane continued its progress toward the terminal. Time was running out. It was then I remembered. I had just networked with a new and vibrant friend. Her blog exists for the encouragement of teen girls whose families are affected by divorce. I remembered I had 2 business cards. I hurriedly dug one out and offered it as a token of my support for that hurting mom and her daugther. 
In Loving Memory and Courtesy of Christina Jones Hooker
When the flight had been canceled, I could have fallen apart as did some of the other airline refugees I had the chance to observe. The fraidy cat in me wanted to collapse from fear of what, when, and how to fix the mess in which I found myself.

Instead, I chose to quiet my fainting heart and watch. I wasn't sure what I was watching for, but I had a sense something uncommon was going to happen. What if? What if my flights had gone on as planned, and I had made it home in time to tuck myself into my own bed?

I never would have met that lovely, lovely creature. I never would have shared those few precious words as the flight was coming to an end. She has been heavy on my heart every day since. I wonder. Will she recognize herself in the pages of my blog? Will she even come? Will she remember Sherry's blog and seek solace there as well for both her and her daughter?

My heart yearns to know both the answers to questions I didn't get to ask and the stories she didn't get to tell. I was watching. Because I was watching, I saw her. I hope she found strength in the encounter. 

Hebrews 13: 12 (Word English Bible)
Courtesy B. Creasy
Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.

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