Can you surrender to how beautiful you are?
I was frazzled as I screeched to a halt in the car rental return line at Denver International on the final leg of a recent trip out west. Somehow I had missed my exit onto the toll road, had spent forty-five minutes trying to find my way through the maze of streets and shopping malls that all looked alike to my discombobulated eyes. So, by the time I did find my way onto 470 and into this Alamo parking lot at the airport, I was uncomfortably, desperately late for my connection. And there had been no time to fill the car with gas and it was down a third of a tank and, a few days before, I had read the sign in the Alamo office that threatened we renters when we didn’t return our cars gassed up. The penalty was double the price at the gas stations.
That’s what was on my mind – the exorbitant bill I was about to owe and the plane I was likely to miss – when the man in the Alamo jacket approached my car. And when he asked how I was, I blurted out something about being late with no time to get gas and being up Shit Creek without a paddle. He calmly asked for the keys, sat in the car, turned on the ignition, and punched some buttons on his receipt computer. And while he was doing this, he said, “Don’t worry; I’ve got your back.” And when I heard his words, the fingernails that had been screeching across a blackboard in my mind, silenced themselves, and I felt my shoulders relaxing a bit. This hefty man with the jet-black hair, he had my back. And then he handed me the receipt and told me that he only charged $15.00, the price I’d have paid at the gas station. “You are wonderful!” I sang out to him, meaning it with every fiber of my being. And then something unexpected happened, something I, a frazzled nervous-wreck-of-a-person, didn’t see coming. He looked at me and, with conviction and kindness, sang those words right back in my direction. “You are wonderful!” And a laugh, a relaxed joy-filled laugh, rose up from some place beneath my frazzledness, and I let the words soak in. I am wonderful, too! And this gesture, this man’s ability to see someone deeply, to see me deeply, beneath the surface circumstances, carried me forward through check-in and security and onto the plane moments before the doors closed.
It is while traveling that I deeply soak in these gestures of kindness, these precious human connections. It’s not that I don’t experience kindness and connection in my at-home-in-the-Upper Peninsula life; I do. Every day, in so many ways. My life is saturated with sweet moments and I appreciate them wholeheartedly. On trips, however, especially when I’m traveling alone, when I’m in the company of strangers, there is a spareness, a space between these gestures. I spend a lot of time in airports these days, especially in Detroit’s, with its long terminal corridors, and, as I walk the length from one end to the other, this song, one that I learned years ago at a Sonia Choquette workshop, often surfaces from some juke box of tunes inside of me and I sing it silently: “You are so beautiful. You are so wonderful. My heart is open wide to let you in.” And I love the moments when the lyrics become true for me, when I really do see how wonderful we all really are.
A week and a half ago, I flew south for a three-day visit with my son, Chris, and his girlfriend, Diana, in their new home-city of Knoxville, Tennessee. On the way, I had a long lay-over in the Detroit Airport. And, after my usual laps in Terminal A, I found a quiet space against a wall, scooched down and relaxed, watching the people bustle by. It was a little girl, a toddler in a stroller who caught my eye. There was something about this little girl – perhaps it was her squinty blue eyes or her wayward blonde hair, or perhaps it was something deeper, something I don’t have words for – I’m not sure what it was, but she reminded me of me. And, as her parents scurried forward, I, sitting at her eye-level, smiled and she smiled back a wide whole-face smile, and she kept on smiling as her parents pushed her by, kept on smiling with her neck twisted around until she sailed out of sight. I live for moments like that, moments when I feel that connection, when I melt into a place of love.
All week in yoga, I’ve been telling the story about the Alamo man, how his kindness has stayed with me, how my heart has felt a little more open, how I’m remembering something. I’m remembering that it doesn’t matter how lost I sometimes feel, or frazzled, or late. I’m remembering that I am wonderful – and, this remembering, I’m happy to say, it feels wonderful.