A few days ago I took an online travel writing workshop offered by Pink Pangea. I’ve been looking at their website a lot lately; they offer some writing retreats that I would love to sign up for. Until then, I got a chance to interact with their founder, Jaclyn Mishal virtually in an online webinar workshop. I was thrilled to discover that it was really a workshop. We were given questions to answer in our journals about our goals, our support networks and other things that were good to give thought to and write down.
Then, we were given a bigger writing exercise: 5-6 minutes of writing about an act of kindness in our travels. I wondered how many people couldn’t think of one? I wondered how immediate some people’s stories came to mind? This is what I wrote:
The woman in the Charlotte airport looked like the epitome of an old, eastern-European peasant woman. She had on dark, layered skirts, a head scarf, and sturdy black shoes. She didn’t speak English. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was a costumed character in a Candid Camera skit.
She handed me a piece of paper and I inwardly groaned. What was she going to ask me for? It reminded me of notecards I’ve been handed on streets in different cities in the world: ‘I’m deaf.’ Or ‘I’m mute.’ Basically I’m whatever… immediately followed by a plea for money. But this woman’s note was written in English, allegedly written by her daughter, asking if someone would please call her if her mother handed them this note. Her mother was traveling alone and didn’t speak English. The daughter lived in Texas. Her mother was traveling through Charlotte. Would I please call this number and ask for Diane?
I was hesitant. What type of scam was this? Would she somehow hack into my phone? Make a purchase on it? Steal it? What was this actually about? Why me?
Then I thought, maybe it’s all legit? She seemed to need help, and she had made it through security and had a plane ticket in her hand. We were at the gate, flying to Europe.
I thought about all the times strangers have helped me when I travel. Offering directions, advice, food, water, a shared table, shared rides or anything else they were kind enough to offer a stranger. So many strangers have shown me kindness. Maybe they’d been hesitant or skeptical, too. Now it was my turn to show that kindness; to pay it forward. To take a chance.
So I dialed my phone.
That was as far as I got with the writing exercise. Time ran out. I could be satisfied to end the story right there. Instead, I thought I might share it here. I enjoyed hearing the other stories the people in the workshop wrote during that six minutes. A few shared and we were all invited to give feedback. I really enjoyed it. It convinced me I want to go on a writing retreat and maybe take another online writing workshop. Sometimes I love to just sit and write from a writing prompt. Maybe some of you do, too?
Anyway, here’s how the rest of the airport story played out:
The woman traveling didn’t know where her luggage was. She hadn’t retrieved it at baggage claim, her daughter told me. She was worried. So I took this woman up to the gate desk to talk to the gate agent and explained as much as I knew. They looked her up in their computer and were able to call a translator to the desk. They tracked down her luggage and called her daughter again. By then, we were boarding. I’d only played a small part in a team effort, but I was glad I’d been able to help.
It takes a village. I’m just glad that more often than not, there IS a village…
Do you know what you’d write given the topic: an act of kindness?