I often say it; the quickest way to change the world is to focus on changing one life.
I believe this mantra so completely that it is the runway from which I launched and continue to lead this community. Each and every life matters immensely. Like a small stone tossed into the middle of a stagnant pond, the ripples that emanate from our kindnesses carry far beyond our ability to see, understand, or even imagine.The quickest way to change the world is to focus on changing one life. Click To Tweet
An act of kindness affects more than just the immediate beneficiary. It also affects the heart of the doer. It affects all in direct witness of the interaction. It affects all who read or hear about the moment second and even third hand. And in turn, the widespread ripple of affection leads to softened hearts stirred to incite even more acts of kindness, which of course continues to advance the initial ripple ever outward. It’s an incredible thought, isn’t it – that our smallest actions have that much power and lasting effect in the world?
However, we are only human. It is really, really easy for us (by which I mean me) to get lost in our own limited perspective and forget that it’s our moments of personal discomfort that push us out of our cozy little life boxes and into the situations and circumstances where we meet with an opportunity to make this world a little bit better place – to be the stone tossed into the pond.
This morning did not go my way at all. At all, people! Firstly, I woke up late. That is never a good way to start things out. I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I get off my schedule, things around here get crazy out of control. I have a farm, homeschool my kids, run a business, and am married to a pilot. I think you get the picture.
My animals needed more attention than normal. (Inconvenience) I ruined a recipe. (Inconvenience) I was out of the ingredient I needed to redo it. (Inconvenience) We got started on school late. (Inconvenience) My child had a massive meltdown that prolonged our school day by two hours. (Inconvenience) My husband wasn’t home to help me. (Inconvenience)
This afternoon, after a long, frustrating day of setbacks and delays (at least as far as my own personal plans were concerned!), I finally left the house and made it to the local Dollar General. I needed one stinking ingredient for the recipe I was attempting (for the second time…), and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to drive all the way to town for one little thing. They didn’t have it.
I would have turned and walked out of the door right then and there, but my son, who had hopped in my car in accompaniment despite my adamance that I only wanted to run in and out and would only be there a second, had wandered over to the toy aisle to leisurely look at Hot Wheels.
To say that I was frustrated and harried would be making myself out to be the saint I am not. I wish I had that kind of unswayed patience. Mostly, I do not.
While I was retrieving my son, I saw an item I decided I might as well grab while I was there, and so that’s how all of these [annoying, inconvenient] circumstances lead to the moment when we were standing in line at the register – a place I never would have been at a time that I never would have been there behind a person I never would have encountered had my own best laid plans played out to perfection.It's funny how sometimes our 'inconveniences' are really catalysts into something much bigger than ourselves. Click To Tweet
It’s funny how sometimes our ‘inconveniences’ are really catalysts into something much bigger (and dare I say, more important) than ourselves.
I was preoccupied with my own [oh-so-broody] thoughts as the lady in front of me paid for her items and headed out to her car. As she exited the door, my son darted to the register, grabbed something from the floor and held it out in his palm for me to see. “Mom, mom! She dropped this!” he said, wide-eyed.
“Oh my gosh, buddy! Go…run after her!” I exclaimed. And he was off, out the door yelling, ‘Ma’am! Ma’am! Wait! Ma’am!” He caught her right as she was getting to her vehicle and subsequently returned the item to it’s rightful owner.
The item in question: a pretty silver wedding ring with diamonds embedded around the band. My son later related that he had seen it fall from her hand when she was doing something and had thought it was just an unwanted coin or maybe a cheap key ring (he’s a great collector of these often purposefully discarded items – for which reason he is nicknamed the Niffler). I would have never seen it had he not been with me. I sometimes have the situational awareness of a distracted adult, I guess. (I would like to insert fairly here that the child can see a coin fall from 2.6 miles away but cannot find the shoes lying on the floor right beside his feet…but I digress!).
Having witnessed the entire event, the cashier kept repeating over and over, “Bless you, son for being so honest. Thank you. Thank you so much. Bless you, son.”
She then preceded to tell me that the woman, who apparently is a regular in the store and well-known to her, was having the ‘worst week of her life’.
“You have no idea what you just did for her…no idea,” she said with a deep sincerity. “She’s had nothing but hard times. This has been probably the worst week of her life. Nothing has gone right. If she would have lost that ring…well, you have no idea. You know, maybe you and your son are just the blessing she needed to change this run of bad luck. You sure saved her some heartache today.” Even as we had paid, excused ourselves, and were walking out the door, I heard her relating the story to the next person at the cash stand.
In that singular moment, all of my self-contrived feelings of frustration and contriteness rooted in the self-perceived ‘inconveniences’ of my day completely melted away. Because I glimpsed, if only for a brief moment, the airplane view of the story – the wide aerial view which included more than just my own narrow plans and desires. The one which clearly revealed that in the moments of own minor personal discomfort throughout that day, God had been delaying, guiding, and shaping my paths by whatever means necessary to collide with hers.
Right then. Right there.
Do you see it? The innate beauty of my inconveniences? The slightest shift in the ease of my circumstances would have completely altered the outcome of this story. I would never have stood in that spot at that moment with that woman.
Look, I don’t know her story. It’s not mine to know. We certainly didn’t do anything special or noteworthy. I just happen to have an amazing (and sometimes observant) son. We just happened to be in the right spot at the right time by absolutely NO accord of our own. All we did was obediently toss the stone of kindness into the pond when the opportunity presented.
What does this have to do with aviation? Well, everything, really! It has everything to do with how we live our lives, the attitudes we approach the inevitable turbulence with, the choices we make on an everyday basis when dealing with people.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes life can be really, really, really inconvenient. With our ever shifting schedules, in-and-out spouses, and Pilot Wife Law in full effect, things don’t always go our way. Yeah, it sucks. Totally! I’m the first to admit that I all-to-often get tied up in my frustrations and allow my perspective to narrow down to a ‘me’ tunnel view.An act of kindness affects more than just the immediate beneficiary. It also affects the heart of the doer. It affects all in direct witness of the interaction. It affects all who read or hear about the moment second and thirdhand. Click To Tweet
But what if we stop and try to see life from an airplane view, realizing that
sometimes oftentimes our personal ‘inconveniences’ are really catalysts into something much bigger (and yes, more important) than ourselves and our own personal comfort? What if our delays and inconveniences are not meant to frustrate us but rather to guide us into opportunities to toss stones? That knowledge changes things!
I don’t know the frustrations of your own day, week, month, or year. I know they exist. I know they can feel overwhelming. We all have them…in droves at times! But I also know this: when we narrow our emotional focus to pinpoint only the things that are not going our way instead of reaching for a wider vantage, we are missing out on the beautiful opportunities to create ripples…or be affected by them. Maybe we need to step back and consider the airplane view – to look for the opportunities that are waiting for us at the end of the inconveniences. Perhaps our discomfort is simply a catalyst for something bigger than ourselves – opportunities to toss the stone.
We need more stones in our ponds. A lot more.
When things feel heavy, frustrating, out of control – stop, take a deep breath, and know that you are exactly where you need to be, when you need to be there.
We just need an aerial view, sometimes.
I love you, family.
Angelia (a fellow Pilot Wife)
Just Winging It: Prayers for My Pilot (autographed)
Just Winging It: Prayers for My Pilot Wife (autographed)
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