Flight Wings of Kindness- By Alumna Laura Staley
Flight Wings of Kindness
Strengthening Our Connections to One Another
by Alumna Laura Staley
I board a plane for a flight to Los Angeles from Columbus, with a stop in Las Vegas. I take the middle seat next to a man sitting by the window, and a young college-aged woman takes the aisle seat. I look up and notice in the aisle a man and woman who seem distressed. “I really must sit with my wife,” the man says, looking concerned and glancing around at all the passengers. He repeats this request two more times. The woman sitting next to me unbuckles, gets up, and moves to a seat in the back of the plane. I get up and move too, quickly finding an aisle seat on the other side, a row behind them.
The man looks at me with utter relief. “Thank you so much, Miss.” The fact that he addresses me as “Miss” fills my heart with such joy that I hardly process his gratitude, because it’s been years since anyone has referred to me as “Miss.” It was no big deal to move; I’m traveling alone.
During the four-hour flight, I glance over several times and notice that the man keeps his arm around his wife the entire flight. They cuddle while watching a movie on a phone he holds in his right hand. My heart fills with warmth as I witness this loving interaction. I feel happy that the young woman and I moved so they could have this experience.
Once I’m off the plane in Las Vegas, I make a beeline for the terminal where the gate for the flight to Los Angeles is located. I’m focused and intentional, hardly noticing anything except the signs guiding me to Terminal C. Arriving with plenty of time to spare, I see a Jamba Juice with no line. I place an order and hear a man’s voice behind me. “May we please pay for your drink, Miss?” I turn around to see this couple glowing at me. I’m almost speechless, with tears in my eyes.
“That is so sweet and yes, you may. That is so kind of you!”
“We want to thank you so much for giving up your seat so we could sit together. We recently got married, and this was our first plane ride together.”
“Oh, congratulations! That’s so wonderful!”
We hug each other and chat some more. We exchange business cards and the man takes mine and says to his wife, “She’s a feng shui consultant!” He knows how I help people! My fruit smoothie shows up on the counter and I thank them again, take it, and make my way to the black vinyl and stainless steel chairs at the gate. I’m so moved I almost cry. I think about how he called me “Miss” twice and it thrills me. I also have two revelations about my life in relation to the many kind strangers I have encountered: I love people, and I’m never alone in the world!
I remember Wayne Dyer talking about looking for opportunities every day to help someone, a practice he offered as a way to begin to reach beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinariness of life. It heartens me to think every day about the subtle flow of generous giving and gracious receiving happening between many people in the small moments of human interaction.
Scientists now know that giving, receiving, or even witnessing an act of kindness strengthens the immune system and increases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood in the brain. This is great news for all of us. It can create a ripple effect, as people feel better after such interactions and choose to pay it forward. In this larger context, acts of kindness can be a path to wellness for the community. We don’t need to wait for natural disasters or human tragedies to connect with others with presence, kindness, and awareness. There’s positive energy and majesty in gentleness and simple acts of human compassion, and everyone benefits.
Here are some ideas of caring ways to strengthen your connections to others:
- Open a door for someone.
- Place coins by a parking meter.
- Pick up trash in your neighborhood.
- Ask if you can help a person who seems to be struggling with his or her groceries.
- Allow someone to open a door for you, especially if your hands are full.
- When people compliment you, thank them.
- Ask a parent with young children if you can help, or offer words of compassion and kindness, especially if she or he seems to be having a difficult time. Parenting young children can be a really challenging job.
- Roll a neighbor’s trash bin to the place it is kept on non-trash days.
- Be kind and patient with all the people who support the flow of your life, including clerks, cashiers, and colleagues.
- If you are in a bad mood, consider performing an act of kindness, because it has an excellent chance of shifting your mood in a positive direction.