Blessings make our lives richer. They can be broad and formal, like those offered by a priest, rabbi or imam to the faithful. Or as intimate and informal as the random “bless you’s” that follow sneezes on a crowded flight.
As a world traveler I tend to experience blessings in a rather secular way: the comforting touch of a flight attendant who smiles warmly throughout a 10-hour flight; the wash of relief as a waiter finds me to return an umbrella left behind; the shared excitement of visiting a new destination with someone special; and especially the forging of new friendships across cultures.
I choose to appreciate the blessing when a pilot grounds our plane because of bad weather. I might miss my connection, but that pilot put our safety ahead of anything else. For that, I am extremely grateful.
It is a my great joy to help others while traveling as well. On my way home from Norway, I met four Chinese construction workers lost within the Atlanta airport. They were flying home after working to widen the locks of the Panama Canal. They had no idea how to get from the international arrival area to their departure gate. I was able to use my 29 years of Chinese language studies to escort them to their gate, chatting with them along the way. The relief on their faces was my reward for stepping out of my usual travel routine for a short detour.
When I finally made it to my gate, I saw a Key West neighbor who was stranded after a flight cancellation and had a long wait until the next available flight. I was able to use my travel agent skills to work with the airline and get him onto the next flight home, and felt blessed to see his wide grin.
As my plane descended toward Key West Airport at the end of my journey, I felt thankful for the tranquil beauty of the setting sun, shimmering off the undulating waves that surround my island home. Also visible were the proud white sails of the schooners out for sunset celebrations, Civil War-era Fort Zachary Taylor glinting in the sun’s last rays, the green tree canopy dotted with vibrant orange Royal Poinciana blossoms, and finally the mangroves and salt ponds that we flew over very low before the wheels touch the tarmac.
Each time I travel, it is a great blessing to be able to make the journey, and an equal blessing to safely arrive home.
(Musings by Phil Sheldon while flying home from touring Norway and Stockholm with a friend in August 2014)