Tell Me Something Good – Connections at 30,000 Feet

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i am so very happy to be writing this post from one of my favorite cities in the whole world – portland, oregon! i am writing in the middle of the airport, getting ready to surprise my husband by meeting him at his actual gate (one fun thing about flying in separately!)

flying into portland mountains

i wrapped up the almost 3 hour flight between denver and portland, where i experienced unusually kind and interesting seat-mates. i was on southwest airlines, so it’s always an interesting experience as you lock eyes with strangers and then someone eventually chooses to sit next to you. as my belly is getting bigger, i had about 50 people pass me probably because they were nervous they might catch whatever is making my belly big (one can only assume).

a very brave twenty-something and a very tall man decided i probably wasn’t going to go into labor and would sit by me.

the first thing the man did when he sat down was to say, “congratulations! it appears as though you are having a baby!” thankfully, i am indeed having a baby otherwise i would have probably been pretty offended. the three of us started in on a very natural and easy flowing conversation around parenthood, childbirth, chasing our dreams and traveling.

turns out this man has three daughters all in college, his wife delivered with a midwife in oregon and was more than willing to share his own feelings and thoughts around each of those births. i am very used to women opening up so willingly about their own experience but this was the first man (and a total and complete stranger) who shared what his side of everything was like.

it filled me with happiness to hear about his own experience of supporting his wife through labor and raising their three very different daughters together. there is a 97% chance i will never see him again but the conversation we had will stick with me.

the twenty-something woman chimed in with her own feelings on potential motherhood, what it was like growing up in a family of three kids herself and how pregnancy totally freaks her out (i feel you, lady!) eventually she revealed that about a year ago she suddenly started to struggle with travel anxiety out of nowhere and how it was hard for her to be on the plane. i shared my own struggles with anxiety, and at one point in our conversation she said “maybe i should just travel a whole bunch and then i’ll get over it!”

flying into portland

i laughed, related and shared with her my tales of adventuring to antarctica and how empowering it truly was. apparently exposure therapy does indeed work!

out of nowhere she said, “can i share my big dream with you? i feel like you wouldn’t laugh,” (seriously, she used ‘big dream’ and everything!) of course i got super excited and said YAAAAS! she shared with me that she wants to join the peace corps but is hesitant to tell people within her inner circle because they ‘don’t get it.’ i related to experiencing those same frustrations and hesitations. we talked about what was appealing about it to her, what excites her and the first few steps she needs to take to start making that dream a reality!

why does any of this matter? i initially boarded the plane armed with headphones and a book – the telltale sign that i don’t plan on talking to anyone. instead, i never put the headphones in and didn’t crack open the book but instead created genuine connections with two complete strangers.

the goodness reminder is that as easy as it would have been for me to go my usual route of ‘avoid all eye contact and talking to strangers because it’s scary,’ i had a meaningful, face-to-face connection with real people with real stories. i would encourage you to put the book down for a bus ride or remove your headphones on your next flight, acknowledging the human beings around you. you never know what they may share with you or you with them that could be exactly what is needed!

your turn – what goodness is around you currently? how comfortable are you interacting with strangers?

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  1. Elyse

    May 27, 2016 at 6:44 am

    YES! I love when people surprise you with how open and responsive they are and then you realize it’s exactly what you needed. I just love that she said ‘Dream Big’ too! It reminds me that not all people are mean and that I need to remember my manners at the very least to be courteous when I’m in those types of situations instead of putting my headphones on and my nose in a book.
    Elyse recently posted…Victoria Day Weekend

  2. Audrey

    May 27, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Oh my gosh… how perfect for you to have met a man who could share some of his midwifery thoughts and experiences with you! That’s incredible!

    And I am so sure you’ve totally changed that young woman’s life! How absolutely PERFECT that she met you- you (and Mr. WS) are the human version of fuel for BIG DREAMS. What a great flight for everyone!
    Audrey recently posted…Open Letters

    • Marilyn Jess

      May 31, 2016 at 4:56 am

      Never doubt that you can change a life.

  3. Jennifer Haston

    May 27, 2016 at 11:28 am

    ooh I love stories like this! I talk to other people as often as I breathe but I do have my moments of ( I want to read my book) but think about what you might have missed out on..? what a good story! My good story is that I had a good report at work and some really productive conversations about a project I am working on which is very good news!

  4. Lisa

    May 31, 2016 at 12:23 am

    I used to travel every week for work and I loved meeting people on planes! I tried not to bother people who clearly were not interested in connecting with strangers, but I thought planes were such a unique opportunity to meet people I would never normally get to interact with – I met some truly interesting people and it sounds like you definitely did too! It’s fun to see who God puts in our lives and why.
    Lisa recently posted…Weekend Links

  5. Marilyn Jess

    May 31, 2016 at 4:55 am

    The people we meet in our travels are the true rewards, aren’t they? As every great writer knows, we listen to people speak, really Listen, and deeply, to get how humans tick. You did that, Chelsea. How awesome, and what a gift to those two seat mates.

    Patricia Fripp said it so well, I am paraphrasing–you stick out your hand in any situation with a stranger, shake hands, introduce yourself, and the rest just flows. Never forgot that. Toastmasters has been such gift in that it has cured me of the disease of avoiding strangers, eye contact, “small talk,”etc. So no, a roomful or plane full of hundreds of strangers doesn’t scare me in the least.

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