As I settled into my airplane seat, I observed a semi-confused exchange between an older married couple. Their seat assignments were not side-by-side; instead, two aisle seats separated them. Somehow, they were both stuck with middle seats in the same row. Ick.
I occupied one of the prized aisle seats; and after a moment of contemplation, I told myself to be kind. So, I turned to the woman beside me, and offered to trade seats with her husband so that they could sit next together for this rather long flight. She looked at me, a little shocked, then broke into a HUGE grin. Then, she told me I was too nice, and that she didn’t want to make me sit crowded between people during the flight. Anyway, she had been next to her husband for seven hours already today, and she teasingly commented that she was ready for a break. She winked at me, and then across the aisle at him. They clearly loved one another very much, and would have been delighted to sit together for this stretch of their journey as well. But she insisted we all stay put.
Over the next hour as we were waiting to take off (we were delayed due to paperwork problems – no lie) the woman told me about her trip. She and her husband had just spent two weeks in Maryland, helping their daughter with her new baby. And while she and her husband had a very good time, they needed to get back home – to Hawaii.
After more conversation (about careers, and the company I work at, and cochlear implants [one of her daughters is hearing impaired, and she was super-impressed that I knew what a cochlear implant was], and the criminal justice system [her son-in-law works for the ATF, and one of my college degrees is in criminal justice], and many other random-yet-shared topics), the woman told me that if I ever wanted to come to Hawaii, that I could stay with her. Seriously. She gave me her full name, and the name of her town, and said I needn’t give any notice – just show up, and she would get the guest room ready. And she was 100% sincere.
I was stunned by her generosity. And delighted. And honored. And truly touched. Whether I ever go to Hawaii is immaterial; the fact that this woman offered her home to me – a stranger – is the important part. And all because I extended the tiniest bit of kindness. It’s amazing what can result from a very small amount of care for someone else.