It was a stop-over in Turkey. I had breakfast
at an airport café and sat down at a table overlooking a concourse. I had some emails and WhatsApp messages to catch up on. The airport Wi-Fi was slow so I paid for data from the cafe. The data bundle was valid for an hour so I needed to make the best use of the time. I had just begun checking my messages when a middle-aged lady asked if she could sit at the table with me.
I had resolved that on this trip to look for opportunities to be kind. So although ‘Yes’ was a good answer, ‘Sure’ was better and a smile enhanced it. So I said, ‘Sure’ with a smile.
I moved my bag away from the other chair so she could sit more comfortably. She opened a book and started reading it. A few seconds later she asked me where I was going; I told her. I asked her the same question and she told me. We got talking. For about thirty minutes, we talked: this African Muslim woman and the Caucasian British woman. We talked about family, connection with friends and family, education, the commonalities and differences in the state of education in our respective countries, her job as a banker, mine as a teacher, and sundry other things.
At one point she said to me, ‘The age you are at now is a good time to keep in touch with your friends because now it’s often good news you share – births, weddings, promotions and so on. When you get older, it will often be about illness and funerals.’ That made me resolve to try harder to keep communicating with friends and family – I am not good at that.
We wished each other safe travels when we parted. As I walked away, I felt as though I had been standing in a warm bright place for a while and had been infused with warmth and brightness. I can still see that table by the railing, my breakfast done, phone face-down so I could connect with the stranger, her book laid down, us chatting and sometimes laughing. She gave me a gift – wise words, happy memories and a moment of shared human warmth and kindness.
The lesson: to give and receive goodness, you might need to put down your phone and book, let your tea grow a bit cold and share space with another human being looking past all surface differences.