"So, are you from Kansas City or just visiting?"
Mmmmm? I slowly opened my eyes to see a friendly looking man, next to me, smiling and waiting for a response. The plane we were on had just taken off and up until this point my row-mates had met my expectations for being perfect because they had been gloriously silent. I always hope and pray when I travel that the chatty people will not sit next to me. I use flight time to read, sleep or stare out the window. I love having the opportunity to just be completely silent, for hours, and after an extremely disheartening experience with the TSA in the Phoenix airport, I just wanted to turn the world off and sleep until I arrived home.
Don't be evil, Jessica. Most people are chattier than you, in regular life, anyway. I sat up and put a smile on my horribly drowsy face and responded, "I'm from Kansas City. You?" And that was the end of any hope that I would sleep or even be able to stare out the window in silence.
Three hours later I learned that this man is genuinely positive and caring. He is man who is struggling. He's struggling with the guilt of having everything he could ever need or want, but still feeling sad about life right now. Lately, he tells me, he has found some comfort in the book of Ecclesiates. On the verge of tears, he said, "I really expected to sit down next to you and- well, because you're young and you have a distance about you, have a topical conversation about nothing, just to keep my mind off of everything and hopefully brighten your day."
He was silent for a while. The silence lasted long enough that I turned to stare out the window when suddenly he said, "Turns out that you brightened mine. Don't judge a book by it's cover I guess. Thanks for sharing your experiences and perspective on life."
Strange, isn't it, how a girl who was feeling very distant and negative could be used to brighten someone else's day? It definitely wasn't my doing. If I had it my way I would have ignored the guy during the entire flight, hoping I wouldn't have to step outside of my comfort zone or be vulnerable in any way. What this stranger taught me is that my experiences and perspective, curiosity and openness are important and valid even when my introverted, self-questioning inner voice tells me otherwise.
Despite the fact that I didn't get to nap, I had one of the best conversations of my life with that man and am glad he benefited too.