Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Right place, right time

Sometime you are simply supposed to be where you are. You are put on a particular path for a reason and sometimes the reason why is not evident until you are walking away. That’s what happened to me a few weeks ago on a grey, cold Sunday morning in Kansas City.

I had to make the 35 minute trip from the hotel to the airport by Uber. I have had some bad Uber experiences in the past. Drivers who didn’t know how to get into the airport, drivers who verbally chastised me for standing in the wrong pick-up area, drivers who wandered onto the rumble strips because they were texting, the stories are endless. So needless to say the bar is always set low when I get in the vehicle. Jose showed up promptly, he hopped out to take care of my suitcase and opened the car door for me. We were off to a good start! Normally I’m perfectly happy skipping the small talk but he engaged me in conversation and I found myself playing along.

He was probably my age, married with two young children. We talked about raising our kids. We talked about Dallas. We talked about Iowa. We talked about recent travelers he’d given rides to. We talked about the funeral he had just officiated. He was well spoken without being pompous, he was interesting and he was interested in what I had to say. His conversation skills were well honed to say the least. Before I knew it we had arrived. He dropped me safely at the small Kansas City airport and bid me adieu.

The line for TSA Pre Check was non-existent and as I waited for my bags to come through the scanner I realized the TSA agent was speaking to me. He was just a regular guy, probably in his late 20’s, and as he was looking at the image of my suitcase on his screen and he said “Looks like someone’s got some paperwork to do.” I was flying home from a weekend scrapbooking event so I was traveling with a copious amount of cardstock and patterned paper. I chuckled and said “Yep, but all fun stuff, no work in there.” He continued his verbal inventory “two hole punches, a stapler…” he trailed off as his scrutiny continued, “and a big tape gun”. I laughed out loud! “I’m impressed with your knowledge of scrapbooking tools!”

In the spirit of the day I decided to continue the conversation. I told the three TSA agents, whose sole focus was me (merely because I was the only person there) that I had mailed my scissors home earlier that morning so as not to set off any alarms. The young female agent who was manning the walk through scanner piped up and said “How big were they?” I knew where she was going with that and I had to stifle a giggle because she was so, so serious. Her stance was very authoritative; feet apart, hands on her uniform belt, her tone very stern and TSA-issue. She proceeded to tell me that she was certain I could have brought them through without incident, at which point she nodded her head in my direction as if punctuate her statement. I collected my bags, sincerely thanked them for their time and continued on to my gate.

On the path to my gate there was a Starbucks, with no line. I held my breath as I walked up, hoping they would be serving breakfast items, I was starving and still hours from home. I ordered my usual and was settling into a seat near the windows when I realized that my insides felt light and I’m fairly certain I was visibly smiling (that was however unconfirmed. See my upcoming story about the Chicago blue line). It seemed that the chain of morning events left me feeling, well, wonderful. Why? What had triggered this peaceful, happy feeling? And how could I recreate it? How could I harness it for future use?

This has become a big focus in my life; maintaining happiness. Now there were some obvious precursors to this particular Sunday morning. My stress levels were already low from 14 hours of intense creativity the day before and the past 32 hours had been spent with my oldest and dearest friend (who incidentally is also one of the most optimistic people I know). I was excited to be going home to Steve (whom I am madly in love with) and thrilled to be heading back to Texas (what can I say, I love Texas). On top of all that I had engaged in meaningful human interaction, with strangers none the less. It seemed the random conversation, that occurred where it didn’t have to and normally wouldn’t have, had given me a little boost. I wondered if these interactions were just ordinary for everyone else or had I had a similar, positive impact on their days? I was so grateful to these strangers for their time, albeit brief, and for their kindness.

On the surface our day to day interactions may appear to have no meaningful affect but on this Sunday morning I was reminded that even the smallest actions can have a big impact. Remember to smile, on the outside and the inside, be pleasant and open to opportunity. If you feel it, say it! Tell the stranger walking past that you like their shirt. Hold the door for the next person, regardless of their gender or their age. Engage in the occasional conversation with strangers. And be grateful, be wholly grateful.

“It’s gratefulness that makes you happy. Now we can ask what really do we mean by gratefulness? And how does it work…We experience something that’s valuable to us. Something is given to us… and it’s really given. These two things have to come together. It has to be something valuable, and it’s a real gift. You haven’t bought it. You haven’t earned it. You haven’t traded it in. You haven’t worked for it. It’s just given to you…. then gratefulness spontaneously rises in my heart, happiness spontaneously rises in my heart. That’s how gratefulness happens... And how it can we live gratefully? By experiencing, by becoming aware that every moment is a given moment, as we say. It’s a gift... You have no way of assuring that there will be another moment given to you, and yet, that’s the most valuable thing that can ever be given to us…..We have this saying, opportunity knocks only once. Well, think again. Every moment is new gift, over and over again, and if you miss the opportunity of this moment, another moment is given to us, and another moment. We can avail ourselves of this opportunity, or we can miss it, and if we avail ourselves of the opportunity it is the key to happiness.” ~David Steinl-Rast