Kindness of Strangers
The final bell rung, and I was out of the building faster than you could say, "It's winter break!" I got home, did some last minute packing, and by 8:00 pm my sister and her boyfriend were driving me to JFK. Finally. I was only 13 hours away from my final destination, Rome, Italy. I had been anticipating this vacation and this trip for months now and being in a long distance relationship ain't easy. Neither is teaching for the first time. This break is my salvation.
When I got to Ukraine for my connecting flight to Italy, we arrived THREE hours late. And guess what, my flight to Italy was long gone. The airport was in pure chaos. It was filled with people crying and yelling, trying to get to places like Dubai and France. I added to the chaos- I skipped lines, ran to the front desk of customer service and pleaded to get a seat on the next plane to Italy. But of course, it wasn't that simple. After running around in squares (not circles) I was placed in a line where I would not only be given my next flight information, but a hotel accommodation for the night. As someone who hasn't seen their significant other in four months, all I wanted to do was be in Rome with her, cuddled up in bed at the airbnb we booked weeks ago. Instead, I found myself stuck in a completely foreign country. Salvation, I kept thinking, I thought you were near.
As I waited online to be delivered my fortune, I met a cool guy from Kazakhstan who I thought tried to skip me on line. I feel a little bad thinking back now because I was grumpy, tired, and very New York in that moment. He actually turned out to be really cool. He's a law student at Penn State and was making his way to Kazakhstan to spend the holidays with his family.
Then I met this woman from Ukraine who missed her connection flight to a different city about an hour away from Kiev, which is the city we were all stranded in. She was crying. What are you to do in those moments when you witness a stranger alone, vulnerable, and in tears? I couldn't bare to watch. I wanted to cry too. I asked her what was wrong and she said, "I just want home." Girl, we were on the same boat. I didn't want to be stuck at an airport either. I wanted to be in Rome with my girlfriend.
The airline provided those of us who missed our connecting flights, including line-skipper guy also known as Asset and sad lady whose name I never got, a free night at a hotel nearby. A dinner and breakfast voucher was included, yay! At dinner I met a new person named Abelay, also from Kazakhstan. He's a college student in Finland but studying for the SATs and preparing to apply to colleges in the U.S. After getting to know Abelay a bit, Asset joined us and get a hold of this-- he's from the same city as Abelay and they went to the same school growing up! Talk about small world!
All of this to say, I can't be upset about the three hour delay. In just a few more hours I would be in Rome with my girlfriend. Experiences like this show me that I can never really be lonely in its true definition. Interesting people will always be around. Kind, caring people will always be around. There are more good people in the world than bad. If there weren't, I wouldn't be here right now, you wouldn't be reading this right now, and kind strangers wouldn't add to an interesting trip abroad.
It's like Ta-Nehisi Coates says in his book Between the World and Me, "...I didn't always have things, but I had people -- I always had people."
Do you believe in the kindness of strangers? Comment below and/or share an experience!