The scene is familiar. The unclicking of the seat-belts drowns out the pilots instructions. The light finally gives permission. The aisle quickly fills. Some sit, others stand... half bent. Carry-on bags need to be hastily retrieved, stored above or on a patiently sitting passenger's head. I sit, amused. Now the world is waiting. Let's get going, let's move... let's hurry up and wait!
The engines finally wind down to a stop. The world stands still; everything is quiet. The air around the gridlocked aisle, anticipates the imminent hustle.
Earlier, a lady across the aisle and I shared a moment. The drill is the same: finish your coffee and snack, compress all your rubbish into your empty cup, fold your table up and wait for the collecting steward. But this lady's bits and pieces don't comply; instead, it flies through the air. A rubbish jack-in-the-box. She lets out a silent, slightly embarrassed laugh. I look at her; she is middle aged with a gentle but tired face. As I help her retrieve the shrapnel, she smiles a 'thank you' and I smile a 'happy-to-help'.
The plane vacates. We've all shared a moment. It was quick, it was powerful. The little things are temporarily forgotten, but normality seeps back in.
Now I sit waiting. Watching as the doors open. Watching as people hurry in their shuffle. Some patient towards others. Some only if you're ready. Most are in the race, the race to wait at the baggage turnstile.
The lady with the gentle smile has her phone in her hand, her hands start to visibly shake. She is connecting back into her world, a connection that changes her life. She has a look of horror.
An intuitive passenger asks, "What's wrong?"
She replies, "Bad news... Someone has just died... My husband...".
The empathetic passenger drops her bag, wraps her in a bear hug. Compassion in action and words.
"Let it all out, it's okay." They stand frozen in the aisle.
There is a paradigm shift on the plane. Delay is respectfully accepted. Understanding ripples through the remaining waiting passengers, the air is now charged with emotion. Eyes dart between partners. Children stare. Tears silently rolling. Some faces are blank, reflective. Some faces are filled with compassion. I witness many 'I love you' glances. I look at my wife, she is crying. I squeeze her hand. Suddenly everyone is patient. Space is needed, space is provided. Staff appear; the captain personally takes charge.
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The plane vacates. We've all shared a moment. It was quick, it was powerful. The little things are temporarily forgotten, but normality seeps back in. As I walk to retrieve my baggage, I reflect. In the world today there are so many ways to be a poor person. To experience this moment is humbling. Empathy in a time of need. Today I decide I'm proud to be a human being.
So next time you put your phone into airplane mode think of your wife, your husband, your children, your parents, your siblings, your dog. Have a moment of appreciation.
A conscious thought of the ones you love.