posted on: Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Several years ago when I was riding up a chairlift with a stranger and we were chatting it up about completely random stuff for the length of the ride. The conversation probably lasted about 7 or 8 minutes. As we neared the top of the lift and were preparing to get off (POLES UP!) he looked over and said something that I will never forget. With a smile he said, "It's been a real pleasure. Have a wonderful life." It struck me so much because no stranger had ever said that to me before, and I had never ever thought about it that way. He was so right and his response could not have been more lovely. We meet strangers all of the time. Standing in line. Watching a football game. Sitting on a plane. Shopping at the supermarket or mall. Walking through a crowd. Every day we encounter strangers. But do we ever pause to think about the fact that they are real people, with real lives and our brief encounter is just a fleeting moment in time. I find that I often meet strangers and instantly listen to their advice, comments, etc as if they are my family. It is almost like an instant bond and then moments later, when you walk out of the store or part ways, it's over. That mini bond just disappears, most likely forever.

Ever since that man said those words to me on the chairlift, I always think about them when I part from a stranger. I always think that thought in my head "Have a nice life" but sometimes I never muster the courage to say it out loud. Why? I have no idea.

This ski trip was no different and strangers were encountered on the chairlift. All of whom we just happened to share some common bond with, and then its gone with the turn of the chair. When we were sitting in the airport for hours waiting to come home, I started looking around at the strangers sitting nearby. I became fascinated with them and what their story was. For example, there was "RED ROVER." She was a middle aged woman sitting alone wearing all red. Jacket, boots, necklace...all red. She was also clinching two red roses in her hand and she never put them down. As I watched her, she pulled out a red iPad case. Then her iPhone with a red case. Then a red can of Pringles. I began trying to make up a story for her life and why in the world she was infatuated with red and why on earth she was holding onto  two red roses. I will never know anything about Red Rover but she sure did occupy my time.

Then, once we boarded the plane we were seated next to a 5 year old. On the other side of the isle was his grandmother, 6 year old brother and 4 year old sister. As the flight went on, we learned so much about Waylon, Vernon, Millie, their 6 month old twin brother, Eli and sister, Scarlett. We learned about how their mother moved to Texas with the father of the twins and the older three still lived in North Dakota with their father. We learned that Millie liked jelly beans and that Waylon thought Casey was a girls name. (he he). We learned so much about this little family to the point that I felt like they were my niece and nephews. While we were in flight I could not help but think about what that man said to me on the chairlift years ago. How I would never see my new niece and nephew's again. How all of our lives would go on as if that plane ride never existed. And I have to say, it made me sad. Very sad. But, then something wonderful happened. As we were all getting ready to de-plane, one by one Vernon, Millie and Waylon and came over and kissed William and hugged me goodbye. And for that instant we were not strangers at all. We were a family. A Delta flight whatever, Row 21 family.

As I walked off the plane with W in my arms and Millie holding my hand, I knew they were about to see their mother and be gone forever. When I saw those three sweet ones make eye contact with their mother and run to leap into her arms, my eyes filled with tears of joy. They were the best strangers I have ever met and I have to say... I miss them. I will never see those kids again but I certainly wanted to say "It's been a real pleasure. Have a wonderful life."


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