A couple weeks ago I flew to the Dominican Republic, on my way to New Hope Girls. It was my first time flying Internationally alone. I am a nervous air-traveler at best and at other times downright fearful. My first two flights were GREAT but that final leg to Santiago was met with that terrible turbulence that feels like the bottom is dropping out. My least favorite kind.
Nestled on a flight of primarily Spanish-speakers, I felt even more alone with my limited ability to communicate. Try as I may, I was slipping into a place of fear. Tears began to flow as panic set in. I looked to my right and the woman sitting next to me had become aware of my fear. In Spanish, she began saying “it will pass, it will pass.” But it didn’t. Not immediately. So she reached out and held my hand, all the while speaking over me.
Eventually, the turbulence did pass. I started to breathe more normally again. And she realized I don’t speak Spanish, at least not fluently. She graciously switched to English and we began conversing.
I made a friend on that flight!
I learned more about my new friend, Wendy, and her beautiful family. Her husband was in our same row and was an incredibly kind man, too.
We chatted about what she had been doing in the United States and I learned about her family’s businesses in the Dominican Republic. We showed each other photos of our kids and she insisted that I share her oreo cookies – she emphasized a little sugar would help me feel better.
As the plane touched down in Santiago we took a selfie together. I was washed in gratitude for how God provided a person for me as a source of comfort and support, when I clearly needed one so desperately.
As we exited the airport I had the opportunity to briefly meet Wendy’s family. We both asked the other to keep in touch and even batted around the idea of trying to meet up for a coffee or brief visit while I was in county. I left the airport with a grateful heart for my new friend.
It really is a small world, after all!
The next day, I was visiting with my friends and colleagues at New Hope Girls and shared the story of my airplane panic and the friend I made along the way. One coworker said, “what was her name?” I told her Wendy’s full name as I shared the picture. “Oh, I know Wendy! I know one of her sisters well!”
What a small, small world we live in! What are the chances?
I had connected with Wendy over WhatsApp and immediately messaged her about our mutual friend, Mariu. We decided we all needed to get together! Two days later, we met and shared breakfast together, along with her two daughters. The meal was lovely and the time we shared was incredibly special!
I’ve been thinking about this situation and reflecting on what I learned through the experience. The most important takeaway I can gather from this situation is this….
People Are the Most Important Adventure
Wendy could have ignored my quiet tears and simply stared straight ahead. When the turbulence ended, we could have returned to our reality as two strangers on the same airplane. But together, we allowed ourselves to consider the opportunity we had to enjoy meeting another person. We got to learn about how someone else lives, loves their family, and approaches life. It helped remind me how this world has no shortage of interesting and beautiful people.
We also could have exited the plane, passed through customs, and gone on our way without touching base again. But I think we both realized our connection and experience was a special celebration of humanity. We both wanted to keep the connection going. Instead of letting the moment fade away we grabbed onto it! We welcomed each other deeper into the others world.
I am reminded afresh how my quest for adventure often is so much closer than I realize. While this specific realization for me happened on an airplane, it does not take getting on a plane to experience the adventure of people. You are surrounded by the opportunity for adventure all the time. At work, in the grocery store, within your neighborhood – “people adventures” are all around you!
My biggest challenge for you is this: Do not allow yourself to slip into a cynical place and utter the words “people are the worst.” I challenge you to consider how people can also be the absolute best. After all, when considering everything that God has made, He was explicit that people are the best part of His creation. Are you living in a way that mirrors that reality? Are you taking time to really see and affirm others?
What adventure is looking you in the eyes today? Will you say yes to the adventure?
Quick Note: In my book, Worth it and Wonderful, I unpack my fear of flying. You’ll hear some of the ways I am committed to pushing through the anxiety to continue forward with adventure and exploration of our world.