On my flight from London last December, heading back to Atlanta after a nice Christmas holiday with my daughters, we were sitting across the aisle from an elderly British couple. Their home is in England, and they were visiting friends in Florida.
Her husband’s health was in noticeably poor condition. He had a limp and unsteadiness to his gait and was slightly bent over. I noticed this as they took their time to get settled in their seats.
He sat by the window. She sat on the aisle seat just across from me.
She gave me a smile as we buckled in, getting ready for takeoff.
For the first hour or so of the flight, she glanced over, looking at my daughters and me with curiosity. Then she looked at me and my laptop intently as I typed away.
I write on flights. The feeling of being up in the air with no time constraints inspires my writing.
I was writing blog posts and my third book.
After feeling her uncomfortable stare, even though it was done with a kind demeanor, she finally leaned in and started asking me questions.
She wanted to know what my relationship with the “other two ladies” was. I guess it wasn’t obvious I was their mom. That reaction from people, of course, always makes me happy. She said she wasn’t sure if we were friends or sisters. Ha-ha! Well…I’ll take that conclusion from anyone any day.
She asked if I was writing for TV. She said she noticed I had been typing away since the plane took off, and wanted to know if I wrote as a career.
She was partly right.
I told her I don’t write for TV (maybe I will one day! I’d love to add that to my list of hopes and dreams! How cool would that be?), but I do write nonfiction books.
She immediately brightened up and wanted to know what my books were about.
As I told her the title of my first book, Permanent Happiness, she did not hesitate to say, “No way. Permanent happiness is not possible,” in a determined, serious tone.
Of course, I wanted to know why her reaction was so quick. I wondered why a couple, seemingly in their late 70s or early 80s, would think it wasn’t possible to be permanently happy after so many years alive—at least the wife thought that. Her husband paid us no attention. He was quiet and looked straight ahead during our conversation.
She then gave me a long account of how her husband had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s a few years back and how she watched him change before her very eyes.
I honestly held back tears as she poured out her heart to me. She told me how he was now fully dependent on her for almost everything. She leaned in more toward me and lowered her voice—I guess to prevent him from listening in—as she gave me sensitive details. Details of how their life had completely changed and how she now gets easily angry at him and yells at him when he’s moving too slow. She said she knew it wasn’t right, but couldn’t help herself.
I listened in, nodding, soaking in all her words and trying not to shed tears, even though they were welling up in my eyes. I suppose I assumed older couples at that age who were still together just lived more harmoniously with each other.
She then, of course, wanted to know about my book and how it would help her. I gave her the three steps in my book that I believe can help anyone live a permanently happy (peaceful) life. She was still skeptical, but as I explained further, saying we cannot be ecstatic or euphorically happy as often as we want, or have all our needs met, but we can live peacefully, trusting that our inner souls can withstand anything. Anything…just by the way we react. Not that we will never have sadness. We will, but we can quickly overcome it, and also find the lesson and the gem in the sadness.
Permanent Happiness just means working every day toward our own inner peace and accepting each moment for what it is.
After all that, she brightened up again and said she will try all the tips I gave her and that she would buy my book and read it herself.
I wished I had a copy on me to give to her, but I didn’t.
She ended by saying I had made her day and given her hope.
This encounter inspired me, probably much more than it did her. It taught me this:
- Anyone can be inspired or positively influenced by someone older or younger than them. We must never underestimate the influence we could receive from someone we least expect it from.
- People are walking around with concealed hurt and pain in their souls. We must therefore smile, be open, and meet others with kindness.
- Each moment we live is a special moment. Each moment in time is one more piece of our life jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle won’t be complete till we depart from this earth. Then that complete jigsaw puzzle will be available to continue serving others and changing lives still.
The encounter with this couple was a big piece from my life jigsaw puzzle. I’ll never forget it.
May we all be permanently happy so we may be ready at any point in time to fill others with permanent happiness!