Gracious Gratitude
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Gracious Gratitude

Day 160

If you want to experience humanity, just go to an airport. I think it’s pretty safe to say that one sees both the absolute best and absolute worst aspects of base human behavior there. Making my way from Las Vegas to Nashville today (a journey that required plane change and traversal of a colossal airport between flights), I was graced primarily with the former. Part of me thinks that it was more to do with my own inner condition than anything. Recently I was listening to a guided mediation with Deepak Chopra on the topic of time, and he noted that the only difference between a bad day and a good day is the internal condition of the person who’s having that day.

I’m paraphrasing pretty heavily there. In fact, I actually think he might have been quoting someone else. The point is that I made sure to get my meditation in place first thing today. I’d prepared for the trip and wasn’t racing around last minute. And I gave myself plenty of time (where I was in control of it at least).

The truly magical part of my trip so far, though, didn’t take place at an airport or on a plane. It was in a car after landing in Nashville. Short trip = not much luggage. So I cruised off the plane and directly to the rideshare area to hail a Lyft.

Elend* pulled up to the curb in his gleaming car and after quickly helping me with my bags, he made sure to ask if the temperature was okay, asked if I preferred windows open and also asked if I was okay if he didn’t take the freeway as there was horrible traffic and he knew a better way.

Having never been to Nashville, I had no frame of reference for the trip. Though the little voice in the back of my head that has wrestled with the scourge of long-haul drivers (drivers in taxis or rideshares that assume you don’t know where you’re going and then take you a longer and more costly route) was clearing it’s throat, as I wasn’t in a particular hurry and he seemed super nice, I said no problem.

He proceeded to give me a wonderful, scenic tour drive to my hotel, traversing gorgeous tree-lined streets lined on both sides with stunning homes perched on rolling lawns. As we drove he told me about having grown up in the area, even showed me the high school where he went.

We also talked about where he’s been for the last 18 months — in Iraq and Kuwait. He’s not military. He’s a translator. A native Kurdish speaker, he’d been deployed with a Navy SEALs unit. He’s been back about a month.

He has two kids — one of which was born days before he left town. While he was overseas, he witnessed the kind of traumatic things that people placed in a war zone witness. He saw death. Up close and personal. After pausing a moment, I mustered up the courage and asked a question that always perches in my mind when I hear about people returning from places like this.

“So … How are you doing?”

It felt somewhat empty, hollow even. A silly question posed by someone whose life is cushioned in the comfort of a safe life in a country where fear of being blown up by an IED doesn’t exist. Granted, we have had our share of tragedy here. Just months ago, on October 1, 2017, the place that I have come to feel as home was violated in epic proportions. But I do not being to propose that the feelings of fear and chaos and violation and such that arose for me and so many others from that are “like” the streets of a country like Iraq.

When he was silent a moment I thought perhaps I had asked a bad question. Then I noticed he was meeting my eyes in the rearview mirror. His gaze decidedly warm … and grateful.

I then spent the majority of the next 30 minutes listening to Elend’s story. Some of the things he saw (though he didn’t share too many details for security reasons). Some of the people he met and the deep love and brotherhood they feel for each other. Some of the feelings he has had since returning. He’d break with his story as we drove past the house that he loves the best in the area — the place he would love to live one day. The place where he went to high school. One of his favorite restaurants. A church where a friend of his is a Youth Leader.

When we reached my hotel as he turned to exit the car in order to get my luggage, he paused and caught my eye in the rearview mirror again.

“Thank you,” he said. “Thank you for listening.”

Thank you, Elend. You reminded me to be grateful for the safety in which I live and more importantly you reminded me that the most important story on any given day, is the one you allow someone else to tell you.

*His name isn’t actually Elend. It’s not like he told me anything secret. Well, we talked about feelings, which are pretty personal and private, but he didn’t divulge anything about the company that hired him, the specific places he went or things he did … but in the interest of some semblance of privacy, I’ve changed his name.

I’m pretty sure the Twins won’t be there to greet me when I get home. That makes me sad, but having seen a few new buds on the adjacent bushes I’m hopeful that there may be new friends awaiting my return. In the mean time, this may be the last pictures of the Twins and perhaps even their little cousin (who was faring well today but the cold snap this week probably won’t do him any favors).

Gracious Gratitude’s entry for the day. Today I am grateful for:

  • Having been prepared for my trip so that the journey wasn’t stressful
  • A super comfy hotel room with an excessive number of pillows on the bed
  • Banana bread pudding (even if it’s not my banana bread)
  • Knowing that my dogs (well the three that are home) are safe and well cared for
  • Feeling entirely re-energized and reconnected to the heart of my activism
  • Friends like Michelle St.Angelo … just because
  • Hammering out the presentation for my Tuesday AM talk and nailing all of it on the flight.
  • Going to bed early
  • Did I mention banana bread pudding? I mean, banana bread and pudding in the same sentence? YES YES YES

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