I had been sitting at the bar in the Chicago airport talking congenially over drinks for 20 minutes or so with a young woman from Berkeley, California.
She worked in production for a film company, was flying to Burbank and was a total stranger.
“Are you done with your French fries?” I asked as she pushed her plate away.
“Oh, sure” she said, nudging that same plate towards me. “Help yourself.”
The TV was on. She had just finished saying that she was worried about the election and about the terrorist shootings.
“It’s like the world is falling apart,” she lamented.
She was worried about our future, about our country and about feeling unsafe in an unsafe world.
“Pay attention to the world around you,” I told her, “The one you live in. Don’t pay attention to the one that is translated for you by that,” I said, gesturing towards the television.
The pictures we see, the television we watch, the FB posts we scroll over, the comments, the shares, the tweets, all stir our emotions and shape our view of the world, making us feel tenuous and afraid.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” the woman with the French fries said.
“Here we sit,” I responded, “two total strangers, and I ask you if you’re done with your French fries. You say ‘Yes, do you want some,’ and before you know it, you’re sharing your food with me.”
“That’s the world as it is happening right in front of our faces.”
No shootings. No mass murders. No hatred, lying, or anger.
“That’s the world in which, when I get in the line at the airport and I ask the TSA guy if I can sit in a nearby chair to take off my shoes, he looks at my cane, asks me how old I am and when I tell him I’m 74 he says, ‘Here, follow me,’ and takes me, shoes and all to the front of the line.”
“That’s the world that I live in,” I tell the Berkeley/production manager young woman at the bar.
“It’s also the world you live in, isn’t it?”
She tells me she never thought about it that way.
The world of kindness and caring gets interrupted and disturbed. But in reality, that’s a bigger world than all the interruptions and disturbances that occur.
The woman sitting beside me was younger than my own children and I can tell she was seriously concerned. I agreed with her that yes, there are desperate, lonely, even murderous people whose inner lives are distorted and strangled and confused. But the vast, vast majority of people are concerned about goodness and goodwill and kindness, and they really and truly do exist on a day-by-day basis, right next to each other in their cars, in their houses, at their jobs, and in bars in airport terminals.
“Let me give you my favorite anecdote against worry and fear,” I told her.
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
“It works great,” I assured her. “Just keep repeating it to yourself.”
Just then, my new friend/fellow traveler’s plane started boarding. She wrote the quote down on a napkin, we hugged and I watched her start to walk away into the world of kindness I had just talked to her about.
She turned around to wave goodbye.
“Thanks for the quote,” she said
“It’s nothing.” I said. “Thanks for the French fries.”
(This article appeared under a different title and in a different form on Elephant Journal.com)
Author Bio: Carmelene Melanie Siani
Carmelene writes stories from every day life and how life itself offers lessons to help us grow, expand, and put our feet on higher ground.