Image credit: Good Search
Every once in a while, a complete stranger, who doesn’t know your situation, will touch your heart. I was recently on an airplane for a two and a half hour flight. I got the short straw, and had a middle seat on a full plane. The three of us women shared pleasantries with each other, then went back into our personal space.
I had some of my lymph nodes removed during a cancer surgery. Because of that, I wear a compression sleeve as a precaution against lymphedema, which can come when the lymph system is blocked. The compression sleeve compresses/constrains my arm, and helps the lymphatic system work more easily when my arm is being stressed (flying, repetitive motions, lifting weights.)
Just before landing, one of the women pointed to my compression sleeve and asked, “Is that for edema?” I said, “It’s to prevent lymphedema. I had lymph nodes removed, and I wear it when I fly or work out so the lymphatic system doesn’t get stressed—so my arm doesn’t swell.”
The plane landed in Phoenix, and the three of us women wished each other well before we went our separate ways, each catching a connecting flight. On the way to my gate, I stopped to put my book and sweater into my carry-on, and in the process, my sweater fell. The woman who sat next to me and had asked about my sleeve saw what looked like an ordeal, and came over. Without the tone of pity, but genuine care, she asked, “Do you need any help?” I laughed and said, “It looks like it, but really, I’m okay. Thanks.” I got everything in its proper place, and we walked off in the same direction, together before parting ways.
This scenario touched me. A stranger in the same kind of hurry as I, took the time to offer help. The offer wasn’t out of pity, or out of her being nosy. I think this brief interaction empowered both of us. Once in a while, the kind act of someone can make such a difference, and yet be brief, effortless, free for them to do.
As I settled into my seat on the next flight, I thought back to the airport scene—then my mind jumped to a month earlier. I was at the Portland airport and a man looked confused as he read the monitor showing departures. I asked if he needed help. In very broken English, this French man explained on the way to the USA, he ended up in Portland, Maine. (He was expecting to land in Portland, Oregon.) Now, the day of departure, he couldn’t find his flight number on the monitor. I asked to see his ticket. I noticed a small, faint “p”—not “p.m.”, but “p.”
He was at the airport twelve hours before his flight was scheduled to depart. This is when using the 24 hour clock, common in Europe, hospitals and the military, is wonderful! By using the 24 hour clock, and motions with my watch and finger rotating around the dial, I was able to explain to him when his flight would leave—some thirteen hours later. I still needed to get through security for my flight, and he had no idea what to do, or how to say it. I pointed out the desk location for him, and in charades, motioned him to hand his ticket to the employee, and point to the “p.” I said, “I’m sorry” and reached out to pat his arm. He said, “Merci. Go! Flight!”
What goes around, comes around. How has a stranger helped you, doing something brief, effortless and free? How have you helped a stranger with just a few moments, without hassle, or spending a dime?