Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Power of a Smile

I was sitting in the Minneapolis airport yesterday afternoon waiting to get on a flight to get home after 6 long days of flying. Since I had been in Canada the night before, I hadn't had a chance to turn my phone on after arriving in the US until around 1:30 PM. When I did turn it on, I received a text from one of my daughters that simply said, "When you land, call me ASAP"...that's never good.

As I dialed her number, a million thoughts ran through my mind...are the kids OK, did something happen to my hubs, is my mother heart started beating faster and faster. She answered the phone with a different tone to her voice than the normal upbeat, "Hi Mommy"...she simply said, "Hi Mom...where are you?" I told her I was waiting to see if I could get on the flight home. She took a big breath and then proceeded to break some tragic news to me. As I sat in my uniform amid a massive group of anxious passengers, I realized that my reactions had to be VERY tempered. As a Flight Attendant, passengers look to us for strength and encouragement during stressful times. If we fall apart, they fall apart. Likewise, if we remain calm, they are more prone to remain calm. So I held it together but must have gone completely white in the face because after I hung up, a concerned passenger asked me if I was OK.

My heart was broken. I was in complete shock and denial and I had to hold it together as I even more anxiously awaited a seat on an already oversold flight. I felt SO alone and helpless as I was dealing with two distraught daughters long distance, offering the best support I could over a cell phone...All I wanted to do was get home, grab my sweet daughters in my arms and cry with them.

I didn't make it on that flight. I had to wait 3 more hours (the LONGEST 3 hours, I  might add) for the next flight (which too, was oversold). My mind raced and I literally fought an internal battle with myself as I wandered the sprawling concourses of the MSP airport searching for a place to find some place to just be alone and collect myself. Impossible!

I finally settled on finding my next gate. As I entered that particular concourse, I saw that people were scattered about as they were waiting for their flights. A multitude of flights were cancelled and delayed due to bad weather on the east coast. A group of high school aged girls in matching red t-shirts were splayed out on the floor taking up temporary residency with their iPods, ear buds, pillows, high energy drinks and copious amounts of snack foods while they awaited their uncertain departure times.

Do you remember the old Disney movies where the queen looks into a mirror and an old hag looks back at her? That's how I felt yesterday...As I dragged my heavy laden bags, body and soul into the gate area, one  girl caught my eye and she simpy smiled at me like I was an old friend. Remembering that I was in uniform, my zombied stare quickly turned into a returning smile and instantly, something amazing heart was spirit was a bit lighter.

For whatever reason, that sweet young lady simply smiled at me. In doing so, and I'm sure not even realizing it, she completely lifted my heart, fed my hungry soul and validated my existence on this planet in that instant...OK, I know that's dramatic, but really, she did!

One sincere smile! That's all I really needed at that moment in time. A smile from a random stranger whom I will probably never, ever see again. A smile from someone who had NO clue that I had just received some horrible news. A smile from someone who was happy, celebrating her life with her peers and she took a mere second to share some of her happiness with a complete stranger who definitely looked haggard and exhausted.

I made it to my seat in a corner of the large area and the flood gates opened. I shed tear after tear after tear. I had been feeling so alone, helpless and even a bit hopeless. I cried tears of terrible sadness. But deep in my heart, I felt relief as I let my emotions out and held on to a complete strangers innocent gesture of kindness.

Eventually, (after yet another gate change) I made it on the "oversold" flight. Due to the weather and delays on the east coast, many passengers never made it to my flight so I got a seat. I was thankful.

I guess the whole purpose of this post is to simply say that a smile holds more power than we can sometimes imagine. One smile that dreadful day...that's all I really needed to continue to function in a very dysfunctional moment. The power that that one smile held was invaluable. It gave me the strength to continue on and to keep my emotions in check as I made it to the precious reunion with those I deeply love and care about. Together, we wept, but the surprising strength that I posessed was due in part to the gracious smile of a young stranger...

1 comment:

Lynn said...

WOw. YOu simply amaze me with inspiration. I admire and look up to your strength. To write to others regarding what a simple smile can do....when all that you must be going through is still so raw. Wow.

I have no idea what your news was.......but I felt the pain as you described your emotions. I am SO sorry. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.