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This week, I’ve been participating in the Well with Gratitude Challenge on Instagram led by Rebekah Fedrowitz. She has provided daily prompts for the 14 days leading up to Thanksgiving, inviting others to join her in a daily practice of gratitude. Here’s my response to the prompt CONNECTION.

I missed my connection.  While I am the kind of person who has spent hours in the hundreds in the air space between here and there, I can’t remember the last time I flew anywhere alone.  I can’t remember the last time I missed a connection.  But here I was, alone facing three unexpected solitary hours in an airport whose most distinguishing feature was the ubiquitous city mugs at the Starbucks in Concourse A. 

Alone with my thoughts, I began wondering if there could be a purpose in this delay. I decided to notice, to pay attention. Maybe there was a gift to be received or given. 

I ambled down the concourse, senses engaged, open to whatever these hours might bring. I am noticing. I am paying attention.

In time, I found the cluster of seats nearest my departure gate.  A flight to Nashville departed before mine, and I scanned the gathering crowd, nearly every eye glued to a phone, tablet, or laptop, nearly every ear filled with a headphone. No one looked up to catch my gaze.  Still, I am noticing. I am paying attention.

As American airport etiquette dictates, I slumped into an empty seat surrounded by other empty seats so as not to be uncomfortably close to another human. I pulled out my own tiny screen to make a quick check of my messages before digging out my laptop to sneak in a little writing time.  If that was the gift to be found in this delay, that was enough for me. 

As my thumb brushed across the screen, I noticed a swish of movement directly to my left.  A side-glance told me that a person sat in the seat directly beside me, violating all my deeply ingrained American expectations. The slightly pungent and distinctly other scent wafting toward me told me that this was not likely an American. As I turned slightly toward her, iPhone in my hand, she began asking me questions in heavily accented English. “Phone. Can I use your phone? One call only.” Caught off guard, I balked, not sure what to say. Then I remembered my mantra. I am noticing. I am paying attention. With that in mind, I leaned into a conversation with this total stranger.

As it turns out, she was from India, on her way to visit her sister in Tennessee.  This was her first visit to the US, and she lost her phone somewhere en route. She used my phone to call her sister.  Then she used Whatsapp to call her father in India.  We chatted for a few minutes until her flight began boarding, a sweet casual conversation about long flights and family and expensive phones.  As she was picking up her bags to board, I asked her her name, a name I have since forgotten. As she walked away, gratitude swept through me for a conversation with a stranger, one I would have missed if the day had gone as I planned. 

If I hadn’t been noticing, if I hadn’t been paying attention, I might have missed another connection that day.  

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