Stranded in the Philadelphia Airport
I'm sorry, it's highly unlikely you'll get home to Montana today. All of your flights were canceled because of the snow storm.
I burst into tears. Highly unusual for me to cry at all, much less in public. And there I was, uncontrollable sobs escaping my lips.
No, I'm sorry for falling apart like this. I buried my father two days ago and just want to be home with my family. I know it's not your fault. What should I do? Do you have any ideas for me?
She suggested I get through security, and then walk from counter to counter to try to get on a flight -- any flight -- out of Philadelphia before the next storm hit, predicted in the next 12 hours.
I did what she suggested; for the next two hours I wandered through the airport, adding my name to the standby list on almost every flight heading west. She was right. I was not getting home to Montana that day.
After receiving an incredible gift from a stranger, I wiped my eyes, blew my nose, and started to make arrangements for the night and, hopefully, for getting home the next day. My husband did some research and found a deal on a beautiful downtown hotel room, making sure I'd have an easy way to get back to the airport early the next morning. I sent a message to my brother and sister, to let them know my situation, and to find out whether they were stranded, too. They weren't.
My sister called a friend who lived in the area to let him know I was there; he sent me a text: "Where should I pick you up so I can take you to dinner?"
My hero of the day took me to a dark, quiet Italian restaurant across the street from my hotel, and afterward we walked together through the oldest part of the city. When we returned to the hotel, he made sure I was set up with a ride to the airport the next morning, and then hugged me fiercely. "You've been through a lot, Sarah. Be gentle with yourself."
Sitting by the window on the 18th floor of the hotel, I looked out at the lights, thought of my father and enjoyed the quiet, peaceful night.
It took me a few minutes to realize how quiet it was in the room, and how much peace I found in those moments.
If I had made my flights, I'd be home by now, which would be nice. But if I was home at that moment, I wouldn't have had the quiet time to myself. If I was home at that moment, I wouldn't have had the opportunity for introspection and deep breathing. If I was home at that moment, I would have missed out on this amazing view, and time to put all of the events of the past year into some form that I could put into perspective and learn from before going back to my hectic life of work, home, and kids.
I've always been a pretty flexible traveler, taking obstacles and challenges in stride; this experience confirmed my belief that those delays and obstacles can be a great and important part of the adventure.
When you're traveling this season, and your plans get derailed and re-railed, and derailed again, remember this:
One way or another, you'll make it to your destination.
Find the value in your obstacles and challenges, find little bits of joy and peace along the way, and remember that though you're on your own journey, others can provide good company.
Be kind to yourself; be kind to others.