Isn't it a strange thing when you find yourself on an airplane seated next to a complete stranger for several hours? Not only are you seated next to this person but your arm hairs are touching, you can smell their breath and with one false adjustment you could be sitting in their lap. Airplanes are known for their close quarters and, even in first-class, your neighbor is no more then an arms length away. This miniature community provides a very unique vulnerability. You can't choose to walk away from your seat companion or open the door and exit when you are 15,000 feet and the fasten seat belt sign is illuminated. In these situations you have several options: fake sleep, turn up your ipod, or start a conversation and hope for the best.
I am naturally a conversationist so clearly my choice on an airplane is the latter, sometimes against my better judgment. I have met a truck driver flying home after an accident and a month long stay in an hospital to see his wife for the first time in 3 months. I have met a grandmother flying to meet her new grandbaby for the first time. I have been privileged to sit next to a few moms with young children. Everyone has a unique story and perspective and I really enjoy hearing all about it. Fortunately in my job as the Legacy Coordinator for Inheritance of Hope I get the wonderful opportunity to play flight attendant and hear many life stories while taking care of a few needs.
As I receive applications from parents with a life threatening illness who have young children, I find myself amazed at all the circumstances that many people go through each day. Certainly there are some flights that have a lot more turbulence then others. But when you're on one of those flights, do you find yourself looking around and gleaning comfort from those around you who seem unworried? I know there have been a few rough flights when I fix my eyes on a person who looks to be a very seasoned traveler and I take comfort in their laid back approach to the huge air pockets that we are riding like waves. There is something about being on a journey with someone who is going through the same thing as you and gleaning a little of their strength, experience, wisdom and courage simply by their presence.
At an Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreat there are 8 to 16 families that are buckled in for an often turbulent ride. Unfortunately they cannot escape the close confines of a life threatening illness. They feel the arm hair of treatments, smell the breath of hospitals, and with one false adjustment they are sitting in the lap of fear and hopelessness. That is precisely when they look up and see a face. Someone who shares the ride with them but at that moment has some strength and courage to share. They lower their ipod volume and start a conversation. They share stories and wisdom and experience.
I am really looking forward to "traveling" alongside 8 families in Manhattan, NY in November and 16 families in Orlando, FL in January. You can bet I'll be the girl talking your ear off and trying to help you with your kids and your luggage and maybe even refill your little plastic cup.
Oh by the way, Inheritance of Hope has been featured on the Southwest Airline blog this month. Check it out http://www.blogsouthwest.com/ Please feel free to comment on their blog to show them how many people support Inheritance of Hope! I would love to hear from you here too!