Personal Development, Service

What Traveling Through a Tornado Reminded Me Of and What it Taught Me

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One would think that, after what happened last month (here, here, then here—yes, it’s that long of a story, and yes, it’s well worth the read), I wouldn’t be thinking already of traveling again for a long time. But what do you want; the heart wants what the heart wants (and also, my friends won’t stop getting married).

Although to be fair, the entire experience, although physically exhausting and at times emotionally taxing, made for a lot of laughter and a lot of unforgettable moments (as well as a great story to tell the grandchildren some day as a friend reminded me). Most importantly, it brought my husband and I even closer. It reminded us of important lessons we can take for granted and taught us a few new ones as well. In short… I can’t help but be a little grateful for the experience.

A smile can go a long way

One of the things that made the experience less difficult were the smiles and the laughter. From the young couple sitting in front of us on the plane with whom we kept joking about ordering a pizza “to go” to the gentleman who, standing the aisle for a good 20 to 30 minutes waiting for his wet seat cushion to be replaced, turned into the plane’s impromptu stand-up comedian, to the American agent who pretended to take our request to fly to our final destination through Hawaii instead of through Austin by fake re-routing us through Antarctica, there is something to be said about the power of well-placed and well-paced humour.

A small, kind gesture can make a big impact

Acts of kindness are always well appreciated, but there is something about small acts of kindness performed under duress that make the situation so much easier to handle. There were a lot of them during those 24 hours—a man standing in a two-hour long line to rebook our tickets offered to keep an exhausted mother’s spot in the line so that she could go sit, which almost made her cry with relief; shared snacks; a bundled-up coat passed to a stranger to use as a pillow; the willing and open exchange of information—the camaraderie that such situations inspires makes us all remember that ultimately, man is a noble creature and we can be kind even under difficult circumstances.

Deep breathing, good hydration, careful eating, and constant movement

We are spiritual, noble beings, but not at the expense of abusing our bodies. Taking the time to breathe deeply, to hydrate adequately, to eat regularly and as healthy as the airport’s offerings can provide (thank you, 360 Gourmet Burritos’ burrito bowl!), and to take as many walks as possible makes a huge difference in the way you feel at the end of the journey.

Family and friends are often willing to go much further than you’d expect them to

We wouldn’t have made it to the wedding had we not had the support of our family and friends. It started with Whatsapp and emails; as we informed those who needed to know that we were struck in Dallas, they for the most part reached out with messages of support, jokes, tips, and ideas—sometimes even just keeping us company, discussing day-to-day affairs. Our friends in Dallas were willing to come pick us up at the airport despite the weather so that we could have a comfortable place to sleep; our family came to pick us up in Sacramento and ensured we were ready to hit the road to San Francisco; our friends there took care of us when we got there and made us feel comfortable despite the fact that we were in the same travel clothes we had slipped into some 40 hours before. Had the aftermath not been this sweet, I highly doubt I would have such kind memories of the entire experience.

Admitting that something is tough makes it easier

During the first half of our forced stay in Dallas, I refused to acknowledge that the situation was pretty tough. But around midnight, when I was reaching the end of my patience, my husband and I happened to be standing in line behind a young couple, laughing at the most ridiculous suggestions we could come up with to get to San Francisco when I blurted out: “This is tough, guys.” The girl sighed and I visibly saw her shoulders slump as she nodded in agreement. Then we exchanged a look, smiled, and told each other that at least it would be over…. At some point within the next day or two. And instantly, I felt better and I could tell that she did, too.

A tornado doesn’t put a life of service on hold

When we had to go back in line for the second time to figure out how we would get to San Francisco now that our flight to Austin was cancelled, the thought “I can’t stand in line for another two hours” crossed my mind. Then I saw two things that made me feel incredibly grateful: the first was an older woman who was so exhausted she had requested a wheelchair; the other was a visibly pregnant woman pushing the stroller of her 1-year-old daughter. Perhaps it was completely understandable that I felt so exhausted; but compared to these two—and no doubt countless others—I had it easy. And since I had willingly and consciously decided to lead a life of service, and such a life doesn’t go on hold when it suits me, I had to do whatever I could to help them.

Final thoughts

Up until I realised all of this, I kept thinking that I never wanted to go through such an experience ever again. But now that I have realised how much I did end up learning through this experience, I have to admit that, even if I had the chance to magically go back into the past and book a ticket through any city other than Dallas, I wouldn’t change anything. Because a life of service implies constant learning, and if these learnings cost me some discomfort, well then, it was all worth it.

Except that I might let myself know to take a clean top in my carry-on to change into.


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