“Folks, we’re going to pull back into the terminal so that maintenance can check out what appears to be a malfunction on the plane.”
Exhausted from a long weekend and anxious to return to Phoenix to hug and kiss my girls, these weren’t exactly the words I wanted to hear. Nonetheless, I remained somewhat optimistic and closed my eyes for a brief power nap prior to departure.
“Folks, maintenance still hasn’t arrived, so we’re going to ask everyone to de-board the plane and we’ll notify you of any further instructions once you’re in the terminal.”
By now, all internal signs indicated that I was walking into a giant pity party. My initial thoughts of optimism were replaced by powerless thinking. The kind of thinking that almost always lead me to my default, introverted space.
“Why does this have to happen to me?”
“Why can’t they just bring in another plane?”
“This can’t be happening. I’ve got stuff to do.”
If my thoughts were public domain, I may have been arrested for excessive complaining and whisked away by the Whambulance. However, as I took my seat in the terminal, I was reminded of the words I had shared with a group of 7-11 year-olds just two days prior in one of my youth leadership workshops.
You can’t control your circumstances, but you can always choose the lens through which you view them.
At that moment, I decided to choose my curious/creative lens and gave up trying to control the plane, the pilot, the mechanic, or any other circumstance that was beyond my control. Almost immediately, I felt a sense of tremendous peace and contentment. Knowing full well that God was ultimately in control, I began to observe (not judge) my surroundings.
Minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a familiar face, Mrs. Jean Riley, the wife of legendary Oregon State baseball coach, Jack Riley. In order to appreciate this, you need to know that I grew up attending Beaver baseball games with my family, always admiring the intensity and focus of Coach Riley.
Had I chosen to accept an invitation to my own pity party, my face would still be buried in my phone, looking for any extrinsic opportunity to run away from reality. Instead, I looked inward and let my curiosity guide me.
I introduced myself to Mrs. Riley, unsure of where our conversation would go. What followed was a three hour dialogue which is difficult for me to put into words. There were tears when she talked about the love she has for her grandkids. There was laughter when she recounted a few of the endless stories that only a wife of a long-time baseball coach can portray. There was determination when we talked about the work I do with children. Throughout it all, one thing remained constant; our communication was authentic. We were sharing from our hearts, not our heads.
As the speakers blared in the background, occasionally notifying us of any updates regarding our delay, we chose to stay upbeat and positive, not letting the circumstances control our mood. After all, it was beyond our control.
“Folks, unfortunately, this flight will not be leaving tonight. We are rescheduling the flight for tomorrow morning and will be handing out hotel vouchers for anyone who needs accommodations for the evening.”
By now, the pity party invitation was a distant memory and nothing was going to stop us from maintaining our positive attitudes.
As I walked downstairs with my precious new friend to obtain our hotel vouchers, I couldn’t help but notice the contagious smile on her face. Even though we’d only known each other for a few short hours, it was as if we had been friends forever. Our flight may have been cancelled, but our newfound friendship was alive and well.
Just as we were about to receive our vouchers, a man near us, who was clearly frustrated at the series of events, began to extend an invitation to his own pity party. It was clear that he was hoping we’d join him in commiseration. However, in a moment of pure beauty, Mrs. Riley looked at me and said, “Keep smiling.”
Minutes later we took the above smelfie (selfie with a smile).
Thank you Mrs. Riley for reminding me of the power of a smile.
P.S. As I type this addendum to my blog, I’m on a plane, finally headed home to see my girls. Scrolling through the many pictures on my iPhone to pass the time, I’m reminded of another beautiful person in my life who possesses a similar, contagious smile, my Grandma Mimi.
I believe with all of my heart that God is love. Furthermore, I believe that He communicates with us in mysterious ways. I’m beginning to wonder if each time I see someone smile, it’s God’s way of saying, “I love you.”