Wednesday, November 30, 2005

11/28 Leaving on a jet plane (singing it)

I set my alarm for 3 AM because the shuttle was picking me up at 4. At 4:15 my phone rings saying the shuttle was getting ready to leave. I begged the person to give me 15 minutes. Brushing my teeth was the only hygienic thing I attended to (luckily I'd taken my shower the night before). Then I threw water on my recalcitrant hair(s). Made it downstairs in 15 minutes to encounter an angry van driver who said, "Why don't you get a wake-up call?" I said, "Thanks, I'm 58 years old and never thought of that."

Okay I really didn't say that, but I wanted to. I just smiled and thanked him for waiting. He said the other two passengers convinced him. I gave my profuse and sincere thanks to the women in the van. We made it to the airport with time to spare. I tipped the guy big-time because I was indeed grateful that he waited.

US Air is not my airline of choice, but the trips were uneventful--which is a good thing to say about flights. From Charlotte to Milwaukee I sat next to a pilot who worked for Midwest Airlines--Milwaukee's hometown airline. He was so sweet--asked me if I got this tan on vacation.

I told him no, and that the tan didn't extend anywhere but my face and my forearms, and that I got it mostly from walking through neighborhoods in the sun. Then I told him some of my story. When I got up to leave, he said, "Thank you so much for doing what most of us don't." He made me cry.

There's so much for me to think about, to process. Without sounding melodramatic, I want to say that this trip changed me. Really changed me. It's not just the feeling guilty because I have so much--I've felt that many times in my life. But it's a feeling of responsibility to make things better. In little ways.

I've come away from this grateful. Gratitude is something I feel every single day of my life. I wake up and say Thank You. Don't know when that started but it's just something I say outloud. (Yes, I talk when no one else is there. We can talk about my idiosyncrasies later.)

So I am grateful. But I've lost the sense of optimism I always live with. People who know me will tell you that I'm so freakin' optimistic that it's sickening. But the poverty, the hopelessness, the filth, the energy-drained people, the dead eyes, the manipulation, the drugs, the anger--it affected me.

While there, I kept up my optimism and cheer. Everyone remarked that I was always smiling. Smiley became a nickname. Maybe I'm just tired. I feel so overwhelmed by the societal changes that need to be made. The macro level. I can't help that except through my vote and my voice. I need to concentrate on the micro level--I can indeed make a difference for one person, one family, and must think about the best way to use what small influence and power I have.

Am thinking about that hokey starfish metaphor--it's so true. I can't save all the starfish on the beach, but made a difference to the one I just threw back into the sea. Maybe thinking about that will help.

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