That time when I was engulfed by a myriad of human kindness

I know I talk about the benefits of meditation and breathing (and I mean really breathing) a lot, but for those of you that still think it isn’t a thing, let me give you a real world example of how much it is a thing.

I recently had one of the most stressful 24 hours of my life but I somehow found the power to smile calmly through most of it (aside from a couple of wobbly moments). I did that with two things:

  1. The kindness, compassion, love and genuine care of other humans.
  2. By having the ability to access my breath.

Let’s start at the beginning. Following a magnificent three days in Montreal, I got ready to leave for the airport to learn that my passport was missing.

Last seen on Thursday when I checked in, and then in the whirl of jet lag and Montreal, I didn’t check it again until I was ready to roll out. This is a huge lesson in being present for me, and one I take forward from this experience.

I have this wonderful feeling of being at home wherever I am in the world, and this thing that I’ve regarded as a blessing, perhaps is the thing here that turned briefly into a curse, because it meant I forgot that I wasn’t actually home and took my eye of the ball.

Let’s now look at the series of fortunate and unfortunate events that awaited me over the next 24 hours.

First response came in the form of the hotel staff, in particular the Head of Security who helped me search everywhere possible in the hotel. His calm kindness helped to defuse an otherwise stressful situation.

Next up airport staff; information desk people, airport security and police were all beautiful. Realistic, but beautiful. Though there was no way I could travel, the police me took me to the Air Canada team who rebooked me for the following day with no cost and no drama. I was to attend the British Consulate in Montreal at 9am.

On the way back to the hotel I called to see if they would be able be able to offer me a room in the circumstances (given the passport was last seen in my hotel room), they agreed and prepared me a spot instantly. I got back to be greeted by the Head of Security who apologised again, and gave me vouchers to use for taxis for my next trip to the airport.

I woke at 3.30am, meditated, and then started researching what needed to happen next and saw I’d need passport photos to be able to get an emergency passport. I managed to find a photo place that opened for 8am and the dude was fabulous.

After a fraught attempt at finding the right entrance for the British Consulate I was successful, and greeted warmly by the team, who helped me call someone in Toronto, who informed me that the only way to get an emergency passport was to go to Ottawa. The lucky thing was, if I had have been travelling a week earlier that office would have been closed and it would have been Toronto.

I was a little emotional at this stage, because I wasn’t sure I’d make it. After a moment of overwhelm, I breathed and realised it was all to play for.

I grabbed my stuff, ran the 10 mins back to the hotel, completed the application online to speed things up, and called an Uber. By another twist of fate, thinking that I’d need to move to another room if staying, my bags were already packed and ready to roll.

Enter Mahmoud, my guardian angel aka my Uber driver. When he picked me up I told him of my mission, he said; I will stay with you and bring you back, I will help you. So off we set on the 2.5 hour drive to Ottawa. ETA 12.30pm. Hurrah, we were winning!

About 40 mins in we stopped for petrol, and unfortunately he realised that we had a flat tyre. He wasn’t sure the spare could navigate the ice and snow (oh yeah, it was snowing the whole time haha), so called to see if someone could come out. They couldn’t. So we agreed for me to try to get another Uber.

We were too remote for them to service the area. I called cab companies and they told me they wouldn’t come, one actually put the phone down.

I went to the edge of overwhelm, breathed, realised that none of this was life threatening, and resigned myself to a trip back to Montreal on a pick up truck and a second attempt to get to Ottawa.

For Mahmoud however, this was unacceptable, he told me that he had made it his personal mission to support me, then changed to the spare tyre and we drove the rest of the way to Ottawa super slowly.

When we arrived, the brilliant team from the High Commission had made sure they could turn the paperwork round within an hour. Mahmoud went to change the tyre and we meet up an hour later, and flew back down to Montreal with plenty of time to spare.

I didn’t let myself believe we were going to make it until we were there.

As an aside, Mahmoud is actually a Syrian refugee and has only been in the country for nine months. Later that night he sent me a message thanking me for giving him “the best trip and the best time that he’s had so far in Montreal” and for being so kind and respectful in return. I was blown away.

I feel utterly humbled by this beautiful experience and by the love and kindness I experienced. My calmness and ability to pivot, meant that I stayed level-headed and able to build solid relationships with each and every person I encountered, which in turn, made them invest in helping me.

Sure, I’ve always been pretty gritty and I’m good in a crisis, but the calmness stems from my meditation practice. It hasn’t always been so, the younger me would have let my emotions lead much much more.

As I landed finally in London 24 hours later than planned, my eyes filled with tears of joy. I left the airport to be greeted by my fabulous parents, who decided to pick me up on a whim because they just wanted to give me a hug.

So the moral of the story folks? Love is all around you. Connect to yourself and you will find the power to tap into it whenever you need it.

I’m also using this experience as an opportunity to work on being EVEN MORE present in my life. To see if I can level up even more in terms of focus and in terms of the quality of my conscious presence (essentially my ability to be present in the moment), so that I am best equipped to make great choices and have the ability to really connect with each and every important human that comes my way.


Originally published at ruthpenfold.com on November 24, 2017.