When we went to Belize in the winter, I had an interaction with a stranger that was really meaningful to me. Here’s what happened…
To get from Belize to San Pedro Island you have to take a small plane. By small plane, I mean a 12-person plane (14 including the pilot and co-pilot). The setup of the plane is 4 rows with 2 seats on the right hand side, and 4 rows of single seats on the left hand side, and one bench for 3 people at the very back of the plane. The cockpit for the pilots is in front of the first row of seats – no dividers. It’s a small plane.
Our little group slowly piles into the plane. We grabbed the back seat bench so Glenn could stretch his legs out. For those of you who have not met my husband, he’s six foot six inches tall and does not fit well in standard airplane seats. The couple that got on the plane after us ended up split – he went into a one-seater, and she shared the bench with us. It was a tight fit – so much so that the only way the three of us could fit on the bench was by putting my arm around Glenn’s shoulders and sitting with one cheek on him!
As we’re waiting to take off, I noticed that our bench mate kept looking over at her husband, somewhat worried. So I started chatting with her. I asked if they had been to San Pedro before. She said, “No, I’m really not a good flyer”. I get that. There’s something about hurtling through space really fast in a tin can that unsettles me too. That said, I see the benefit in air travel, how much time it saves, and I use meditation to keep my mind from spiraling. Thank goodness for yoga!
As the plane takes off, our bench mate turn white… She’s looking for something to grab onto, all while trying to “appear” calm on the outside. I had one arm around Glenn already, so I put that hand on her shoulder. She grabbed it hard and held on so tight… She looked at me with tears of relief in her eyes.
When the plane landed some 20 minutes later, she let go of my hands and thanked me. I was really moved that such a simple gesture could make such a difference in someone’s experience. As we were getting off the plane I overheard her telling her husband that she held a strangers hand and “Thank goodness, cause I was freaking out”. Who would have thought?
This experience has me wondering what other small simple ways can we support each other… Smile at someone in the line at the grocery store. Pay attention to what someone is saying. Walk your dog for an extra few minutes.
I’ve always believed that yoga is practiced through mindfulness moment to moment. This experience has offered me the awareness that this mindful moment to moment practice can also be as simple as holding a stranger’s hand when they need comfort. I didn’t have to know anything or do anything… Being was enough.