I’ve always been fond of the Hebrew song “Good people by the roadside.” In the song, Naomi Shemer, (the lyricist and singer) describes the gifts which strangers gave her: a song to sing on her way, their name, a book a hundred years old. I love the idea of meeting with kindness by the roadside, of our bubbles of life interacting, merging for a brief moment and then continuing each on his or her way. I love the idea that I can learn something from everyone I meet, that each of these moments of connection, no matter how brief, can be a reason for me to grow.
Yesterday I flew home from Rochester to San Francisco and got to experience firsthand the discomfort of winter travel. Heavy snow caused delays in and out of Chicago where I had to switch planes. My first flight was three hours late, which made me miss my next flight, and though I was lucky to get on the very next flight out, the plane malfunctioned, and the flight left three hours late after a gate and airplane change. As I drove home from the airport, exhausted and hungry, it suddenly struck me: despite the potentially frustrating day, I had met only with kindness, cheeriness, and patience from my fellow travelers and the airport personnel.
There was the United agent at the gate in Rochester who patiently spoke with each and every passenger and booked a back-up flight for them, just in case, all the while reassuring them individually that most likely they will not miss their flight at all. There was the kind agent at the gate in Chicago who told me the chances of getting on the first flight out were very high and not to worry and then called me, not ten minutes after, to give me my new ticket. There were the air hostesses who updated us with how the work progressed on the airplane and who kept smiling no matter how much longer their own work day stretched because of the delay.
And there were also the couple with the adorable four year old twins who were going back home, the older woman who listened patiently to the traffic-violation stories of the guy sitting next to her, the Indian family traveling to Omaha, the jovial businessman with the unexpected backpack on top of his roller suitcase, the ever-laughing Kiwi who found herself hours late for the one flight that leaves to New Zealand, where she was going to assist her injured mother. Yet everyone was patient. Everyone kept upbeat, hoping that this time when we get on the plane it will actually take off and get us closer to our final destination.
Fourteen hours after I left I finally reached my home. Yes, I was tired, yet somehow also inspired by these people and grateful for this experience that showed me yet again how many good people there are in this world.