I’m in the airport looking forward to my return flight home to Montana. I’ve got all my security items with me: cell phone, books, planner, laptop, lip balm, cinnamon gum, small Americano. I have had a wonderful Thanksgiving visit at my parents’ with Dad’s family visiting. Too much food. Lots of peace and quiet. A smidge of shopping. Excellent trip. Dad’s OCD about time has gotten me to the airport exactly 2 hours before my flight. I have a chance to sip my coffee and read my book while I wait at the gate for the first leg of my trip. Ahhh, all is bliss….
Fast forward a bit… I am luckily on row 4 of the plane but an aisle seat. I’m the last group to board, and the plane is full. However, I pause before getting settled in as my seat mate is not on board yet. She arrives and says she needs to go to the restroom before she sits down. (Really?? Didn’t she just come from the waiting area where restrooms were abundant?!) So she reaches across my face and tosses her bag and coat in the seat and just stands next to me. (I guess she’s waiting for permission or something.)
When she arrives from the restroom, I stand up to let her in and hit my head on the bulkhead. (Dangit!) Then she says she’s not ready to get in yet. (What?!) I sit back down. (What is she DOING?!) Finally, she wants to sit down. She apologizes for having me wait. I stand. Hit my head again. (I should’ve known that bulkhead was so low. Dangit!) She gets in jabbing me in my side while she gets settled and buckles her seatbelt. She apologizes again. I get settled now, pull out my laptop, plug in my David Gray, and try to regain the bliss I was basking in earlier.
(Ugh!) Because her entire arm is smothering the arm rest, I cannot type properly. Now she wants to get up (again!) and use the restroom. (You’ve GOT to be kidding me!!) I stand…yes, hitting my head again! (This person is completely pissing me off!) I sit back down and wait for an eternity. It’s no use getting settled because as sure as I do she’ll be back. Finally, she comes back. I stand sans hitting my head this time. I’ve put away my laptop as that is a fruitless pursuit. I’m armed with my book and my David Gray again. As she steps in front of me to get in, she apologizes again. I stand in the aisle to allow her to get settled (See how generous I am??). I get in again, sit down again, buckle my seatbelt again, plug in my earphones again, a pull out my book again. She says she’s really, really sorry. I say it’s ok and bury my face in the book…again.
Fast forward a bit… How did my bliss turn to bust? How did my peace turn to pissed off?
Lesson to Learn: Life is not always about me.
Did I notice how uncomfortable she was? Did I notice how she crossed herself twice before we took off and again when we landed? Did I notice how sad she seemed when she kept inconveniencing me? Didn’t I see how she continued to wring her hands throughout the flight?
Yes, I did notice all these…and more. Sadly, I was so self-consumed about my own agenda and desires that I didn’t even give a second glance to her needs or fears or sadness or discomfort. All I could think of was how gracious I was being by smiling, getting up when she needed me to, nodding to her pleas of apology, scooting over and leaning into the aisle so her flopping elbow would stop punching me in the side.
Me. Me. Me.
Now that we are separated and have gone our own ways on the planet, I am so very sorry for my behavior. I could have pulled myself out of my own pious self-righteousness and talked to her. At least initiated a conversation… if this was her first time to fly. If she is feeling okay. What is her reason for traveling. Anything. In my efforts to be so outwardly accommodating and genteel, I was inwardly rude, arrogant, and prideful.
It is not all about me. My interactions in this world, this life, are not all about me. What I do should be for the benefit of others. Josemaria Escriva said: “If thou aim at and seek after nothing else but the will of God and thy neighbor’s benefit, then shall thou enjoy interior liberty.” While my actions may at times be for me, I need to be mindful of, no absorbed in the fact of, the results of my actions. My words. The tone in my voice. My facial expressions. These behaviors that I exude reflect my heart. And my heart during the last 2 hours were most certainly not how I would wish to treat this stranger.
‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (very loose quotation) The abundance of my heart was for me. In spite of my smiles and nods and responses of “It’s okay”, she knew I was irritated. I should have stepped out of my own selfishness and irritation, noticed her discomfort, and been attentive (if even for a brief moment) to her. A kind, sincere word might have meant the world to her.
And I blew it.
Wherever you are, I am sorry.
May I remember that I am not the center. I am merely another orb in the universe. And may I remember to lay myself aside and seek after my neighbor’s benefit.