I smiled at the thought of a few hours of “alone time” as I boarded a plane in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
I had just finished teaching a five-day yoga retreat. Little did I know I was about to experience the profound power of authentic human connection.
As I shifted around to squeeze myself into a middle seat, a woman of Jamaican descent sitting in the window seat offered me a shaky hello.
She nervously told me her seatbelt wasn’t working and confessed, “I’m new at this.” As I leaned over to help, I quickly realized that the seatbelt was not going to buckle around her larger frame.
Attempting to not shame her, I called for the flight attendant who knew what to do before I even opened my mouth. As she handed over an extender, I quickly slipped it into the buckle. “There, this will fix it,” I said.
Rochelle and I quickly became friends. She told me that she had never flown before and that she had a fear of heights.
I calmly explained what to expect during take off. As the plane sped down the runway, we instinctively held hands. As we lifted off the ground, I encouraged her to look out the window to witness her beautiful country from the sky.
Like a child, she giggled at the bumps and squeezed my hand as we climbed through the clouds.
At 30,000 feet, Rochelle told me her story—a single, 39-year old woman, headed to the States not only to visit family but also to meet a man that she had been communicating with on-line for a few years.
The two had decided to meet in person to see if they were compatible. She hoped they would be.
Rochelle was not only taking her first flight—she was on the journey of her life.
As we descended towards JFK airport in New York City, I showed her my country, my city of origin.
We held hands again during the bumpy landing and high-fived as the plane stopped.
Rochelle and I parted ways at immigration only to serendipitously find each other both searching for our connecting flights.
Once again I took Rochelle’s hand and we journeyed across the busiest airport in the country via moving sidewalks and trains. She marveled at the noise and the crowds.
With some time before departure, we shared more stories over dinner.
Hugging Rochelle one last time, I pointed her to the gate. “You’re a pro now,” I told her, sending her blessings. Smiling, she turned and walked towards a new country and possibly a whole new life.
While boarding the plane in Jamaica, I had looked forward to shutting down and going within for a few hours.
What I experienced, instead, was a priceless jewel—the profound power of authentic human connection—and the joy and aliveness that arises by turning towards each other to share in our fears and dreams.
I’ll take that over solitude any day.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Cara Bradley
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock