I was on auto-pilot, survivor-mode. I felt confused. Everything just turned upside down – again. I was on a plane. My children were with me; all four of them. They didn’t know yet; I hadn’t found the right words and frankly, I wasn’t sure if I ever would. There is no preparation for this. Sure, we may try to fathom, but truth is you don’t know what you’ll do, how you’ll feel or even what you’ll say unless it happens to you. I hope it never does.
A co-worker accompanied me; an old friend from high school. I knew why she was really there. She pitied me. I hated that and yet, I don’t know how I would’ve made that flight without her help. I was lost, scared, confused and sad. I tried to be a pillar for my children. I had to hold it in until I figured out a way to get the words out; auto-pilot was my only option.
I did okay. Tears came silently; as I gazed at my children and quickly turned towards the window. They never noticed, but the elderly man across from me did. He was a ‘noticer’.
Because my children were very little (6, 5, 3 and 18 months) and quite an energetic handful, I decided to wait until all of the other passengers exited the plane. When the elderly man stood up, he reached over to me and placed something in my hand. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He had tears pouring from his eyes and his only words were “I’m so sorry”. I choked; fighting every fiber in my being from wanting to just collapse; to lose it. I knew that he knew.
We were the last passengers to leave the plane. It wasn’t until later that I had a chance to dig in my pocket and pull out the paper that the elderly man had given me. It was a $100 bill. I wasn’t quite sure what to think; was it charity or was it kindness? I carried that bill all the way to the funeral.
Years later, I look back on this experience and I’m so touched; not by the $100 bill, but what the $100 bill represented. He was just a stranger, but he was much more actually. It wasn’t about the money-it was the idea that a complete stranger wanted to do something; anything for someone he noticed was hurting. His time was limited with me and he didn’t know what to do, but he did something. So while this was the saddest $100 I ever got, it was the kindest as well. It is one of those moments when you believe in people – just being people.
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