When I arrived at the gate for my Charlotte flight to Seattle, most of the seats in the waiting area were taken. The other travelers avoided my eyes as I scanned the area, looking for a place to sit. I found a spot between a woman engrossed in a novel and a teenager engrossed in a cell phone. “But I texted her, and she never texted me back!” she complained, loudly, into the phone.
I boarded the plane and was soon settled in a window seat near the front of the plane. As the rest of the passengers streamed down the aisle, lugging their carry-ons, I chatted with the man seated on the aisle.
We were engrossed in our conversation and almost didn’t notice that all the passengers were aboard until we heard the telltale clunk of the doors closing. Then I craned my neck in amazement and looked around. Every seat on the plane was full, except for one — the seat between me and my row-mate. We tucked our bags under the spare seat and luxuriated (OK, that’s an overstatement for coach class) in the additional space.
By then, I’d heard some of his story. Craig, the father of five, was the owner of a large construction business in the Seattle area. He was returning home from an errand of mercy, a cross-country trip to the North Carolina hospital where his brother had just had three emergency surgeries. “He’s going to be OK now,” he said, the relief showing on his face.
I listened in understanding to Craig’s story. I was traveling on a similar mission, flying to Seattle to be with my dear friend Jacqui during her intense cancer treatment. Back in North Carolina, I’d discussed the situation with Barry. I decided it was more important for me to be with Jacqui than to work on the boat. Fiberglass can wait.
Craig had decided that his brother was important, too — more important than his own day-to-day life. As we compared our situations, we joked about being rewarded for our good deeds with the most comfortable seats on the plane.
I don’t think I’ve ever had such an easy cross-country flight. We chatted a little, but mostly, I read and listened to music and napped and looked out the window. The time flew as I did.
When I arrived in Seattle, I contacted my ride, a volunteer from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance named Wendy. We’d never met, so I told her which door I’d be near. “I’ll be wearing bunny ears,” I said. I slipped them on when I got to the curb, my infamous fur-trimmed, sequined rabbit ears with flashing, blinking LED lights inside. To my surprise, none of the people standing near me even smiled. As a matter of fact, they sidled away and wouldn’t meet my eyes!
But my technique worked great for Wendy, who spotted the ears from a block away. She seemed less surprised by the bunny ears than by the fact that she had arrived at the airport, received my call, and driven right up to me without either of us waiting. She marveled that she’d picked up hundreds of people and never had this happen before. I just smiled and nodded. After my karmic experience on the plane, it was no surprise. Wendy was being rewarded for her kind deed, too.
Wendy’s volunteer work involves adopting families from out of town who come to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for long-term treatment. She serves as their local guide, helping them find the bank, the post office, the grocery store. She’s a navigational beacon to them, physically and emotionally.
That’s how I see Jacqui, too. She’s an extremely bright light, a navigational beacon to me and to others. Even while she’s going through difficult and painful times and I’m serving her, as driver, medical advocate, and sherpa, she’s sharing her knowledge, insight, and deep wisdom. Meanwhile, we’re ensconced in a fantastic downtown Seattle suite with a view, enjoying wonderful books, movies, games, and food.
The key to Jacqui’s brightness is, as a Buddhist teacher said, “a predisposition toward favorable outcomes.” In simple words, a positive attitude.
We can all carry this attitude from moment to moment, and even if we drop it accidentally for a bit, we can pick it up again. When we lose something — our health, money, someone dear to us — it’s our predisposition toward favorable outcomes that gives us the momentum to go forward.
I’ll be here with Jacqui for another week, and then I’ll fly back to North Carolina, where Barry and Flutterby await. I don’t know exactly how Jacqui’s transplant protocol will go. I don’t know if I’ll have the best seat on the plane again. All I know is, if I carry bunny ears with me, each moment will be more joyful. And if I carry a predisposition toward favorable outcomes with me, each moment will be exactly what it’s supposed to be.