by John Stafford
Orange, Texas, USA
It had been a long week of out-of-town business meetings, and on Friday afternoon I was scheduled to fly home from Baltimore to Houston. From the looks on the faces of my fellow passengers and conversations I overheard, everyone was tired and ready to go home. What we wanted was not what we received.
Stormy weather in Houston caused several delays in takeoff, then rerouted us to a different city for an unscheduled stop. After even more delays, the mood in the plane was tense. Everyone was tired and wanted to get home, but we were helpless: nothing we could do would change the weather.
Each person reacted to the situation in their own way: some complained to those nearby, some shifted about in their seats in an agitated way. An elderly lady in the window seat across the aisle from me closed her eyes and seemed to be trying to block it all out. The young lady who was sitting next to the elderly lady buried herself in a large book.
Finally, we were in the air again heading for Houston, and began to run into the remains of the storms that had closed the Houston airport. As the turbulence shook the plane, the elderly lady became frightened and instinctively reached her hand out toward the younger lady. This young lady stopped reading her book, looked up with a smile, and held the woman’s hand. I could hear them as they tried to talk to one another, but the elderly lady spoke almost no English. She seemed embarrassed about disturbing the younger lady and withdrew her hand. But the turbulence shook the plane even harder, causing her to reach out again.
The language barrier, the age difference, the weariness of time spent away from home, and the frustrations of the delayed flight — none of that seemed to bother the young lady. She put her book away, smiled, and held the older lady’s hand through the turbulence. The younger lady comforted the older lady and calmed her fears for almost half an hour, until we landed safely in Houston.
One person reaching out their hand to help another person by holding their hand: such a simple act, but such a powerful act. It reminded me of the times I’ve found myself in situations where I needed help myself. In each situation someone went out of their way, put aside what they were doing, reached out their hand — and helped me.