My message this morning at Brooklyn Quaker Meeting:
Over the past few days, I have spent way too many hours in airports. I was traveling to San Jose, California with a teenager so that we could give a presentation at a youth conference there. Our flight plans unfortunately had us flying through Denver, which was hit by a freak snow storm on Tuesday, effectively stranding us in the Minneapolis and then Denver airports for a day and a half.
The thing about airports is that no one really wants to be there. It's just where you have to go to get where you want to go. So to be stuck in an airport with thousands of people who can't get to their destinations is an interesting experiment in human nature. Faced with the stress and the unknown and the discomfort, people's nerves fray and they say things that aren't mentionable in this room.
On the other hand, being stuck in the airport, the teen and I were witness to a remarkable number of small bits of kindness going on all around us. People would notice us and say, "Hey weren't you on the flight with us here? Where are you headed? Oh, that's too bad." Others would share advice on possible flight plans or places to stay or just commiserate with us. And that was going on thousands of times all around us in the airport.
I was thinking about how remarkable that was. Something about all being in the same shared plight — being stuck someplace we didn't want to be, prevented from getting where we wanted to go — enabled perfect strangers to reach out to each other.
I wondered how this was different from everyday life. Probably on the subway, in the park, on the street, I encounter hundreds of people who could use an encouraging word or a bit or advice. And yet I don't reach out, I don't connect.
Even in this room, we can look around and see others trying to get someplace, and we can with a few words maybe help them get to their destinations.
[CC-licensed image "Waiting" by bgmb42]