I remember the day I left for Kenya; I was a bundle of excitement and sheer energy, ready for the next step of my life. This embarking adventure was a dream come true for me, something I had been waiting for since I was a little girl! While other little girl dreamt of joining the ballet or one day reaching the moon, my one dream way to see Africa. So when the day finally arrived, nothing could dampen my mood!
That is…until my plane actually took off.
The first leg of my journey involved a 14 hour flight to Amsterdam, where I would then have a 9 hour lay over before continuing on to my final destination. Up until take off, I had been so preoccupied with other things – checking in, doing the barefoot thing for security, trying my hardest not to forget anything or misplace my ticket, so I never truly had a moment to process what was happening. When I finally got settled into my seat, buckled up, and watched the airport shrink into the distance, a feeling set upon me. I was still extremely excited for the upcoming 6 months, but I think it was the first time that I even considered reflecting on what I was leaving behind.
As the rumble of the plane engines dulled at cruising altitude, my thoughts took off in an entirely different direction. I pictured the face of my mother who was scared out of her mind about me being half way across the world; I pictured my then boyfriend’s tear stained face as I kissed his cheek and promised I’d be home soon; I pictured my bed, my home, my life as I knew it; and I realized that something in me was about to change. I was going to shed a distinct part of who I was in the hopes that I would come out on the other side of this whole thing a better person. Things were going to change, whether I was ready or not.
That’s when the tears hit. They just leaked out of me like a broken faucet, steady and seemingly ceaseless. Luckily, I was sitting by the window, and I was able to turn my body away and block out my neighbor. Ah, solitude! And I cried and cried and cried. After a a good 30 minutes of silently (or perhaps not so silently) heaving, I felt the gentle touch on my shoulder. I quickly tried to wipe the snot from my face and turned to the sweet woman sitting beside me. She smiled and simply held out her hand in which were a variety of different candies. I was touched by the simple gesture and whispered my thanks as I took a sweet, returning quietly to my former position. From then on, the my kindhearted neighbor kept offering me different items throughout the flight. She sent tissues my way, asked the flight attendant for a blanket for me, and woke me up for snack and meal times. She was my airline mother! and in the midst of missing my actual mother, she brought me the greatest of comforts.
So my lesson from Kenya today is this: even when times are difficult, when everything seems as though it is morphing before your very eyes into something unknown and you are scared, trust that there are comforts all around you. Sometimes they are in the little things – a text from a friend, a blog post, or a handful of sweets, but they’re there. All you have to do is look around and let your heart be open to the gentle embraces your Higher Power is trying to send your way.
To be honest, I don’t even remember the woman’s name now, but I will always, always treasure the comfort she brought me through her simple acts of kindness. So thank you, airplane mom. I couldn’t have done it without you.