“Are you done with your French fries?” I asked the young woman sitting next to me at the bar near the departure gate.
“Oh, yes,” she said, nudging the plate toward me. “Help yourself.”
We had been talking congenially over drinks for the last 20 minutes or so. She was from Berkeley. She worked in production for one the film companies, was flying to Burbank and was a total stranger.
The TV was on. She had just finished saying that she was worried about the election and about the terrorist shootings.
“It’s like the world is falling apart,” she lamented.
She was worried about our future. Worried about our country and worried about feeling unsafe in an unsafe world.
“Focus on the world around you,” I told her, “The one you live in. Don’t focus on the one that is translated for you by that,” I said, gesturing toward the television.
Interesting how much influence the media has on us and how it defines for us a reality that is infused with inflammatory, emotional, fear laden incidents.
The pictures we see, the Facebook posts we scroll over, the comments, the shares, the tweets, all stir our emotions and shape our view of the world.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” the woman with the French fries said.
“Here we sit,” I responded, “two total strangers, and I ask you if you’re done with your French fries. You say ‘Yes, do you want some,’ and before you know it, you’re sharing your food with me.”
“That’s the world as it is happening right in front of our faces.”
No shootings. No mass murders. No hatred, lying or anger.
That’s the world in which, when I get in the line at the airport and I ask the TSA guy if I can sit in a nearby chair to take off my shoes, he looks at my cane, asks me how old I am and when I tell him “I’m 74,” says “Here, follow me,” and takes me, shoes and all, to the front of the line.
That’s the world in which, when I tell the TSA woman standing nearby what he did and that I could just hug him for helping me out, she smiles and putting her arms out and says, “Well, you can hug me instead.”
“That’s the world that I live in,” I tell the young woman at the bar. “It’s also the world you live in, isn’t it?”
She tells me she never thought about it that way.
The world of kindness and caring gets interrupted and disturbed. But in reality, it’s a bigger world than all the interruptions and disturbances that occur.
The woman sitting beside me is younger than my own children, and I can tell she is concerned. I agree with her that yes, there are desperate, lonely, even murderous people, whose inner lives are distorted and strangled and confused. But the vast majority of people are concerned about goodness and goodwill and kindness—and they really and truly do exist right next to each other in their cars, in their houses, at their jobs and in bars in airport terminals.
I reminded her that I was a woman who had gone to grammar school practicing how to “duck and cover” to prepare for atom bombs, who had witnessed our country turn itself inside out during the riots and revolutions of the 60s and who had seen men come home in body bags on the evening news during the Vietnam War.
“Let me give you my favorite anecdote against worry and fear,” I told her.
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” ~ Julian of Norwich
“I like it,” she said.
“I know, huh. It works great,” I assured her. “Just keep repeating it to yourself.”
Just then, my new friend and fellow traveler’s plane started boarding. She wrote the quote down on a napkin, we hugged, and I watched her walk away into the world of kindness I had just talked to her about.
I knew it existed.
It was the world in which I had just asked a total stranger sitting next to me at a bar if she was through with her French Fries, and she said, “Yes. Have some.”
Author: Carmelene Siani
Image: Ian Sane/Flickr
Editors: Catherine Monkman; Yoli Ramazzina