I stood there. Not sure if they had called my zone or not. It was early and I hadn’t eaten yet.
A woman’s voice came from behind, “Have they called zone seven?”
A blind woman.
We begin to chat as the line starts to move forward. I support her, with gentle direction as to which way to turn or move to get her on the aircraft safely. Beth was travelling alone all the way from small town BC to Baltimore with a layover in Dallas.
I observed her movement. She was attuned. Agile despite being in her sixties. She was clearly seeing with all of her other senses.
Beth was light-hearted and didn’t carry an ounce of victimhood in her.
I dropped her off at her seat at the front of the plane and then needed assistance to find a spot for her overhead luggage.
I moved down the aisle towards the back of the plane, “Could I get some help?” I ask.
“No.” The flight attended retorted, looking annoyed.
I smiled and told him there was a blind woman at the front of the plane who needed some help putting her bags up top as all of the compartments at the front were full.
“Well is she fully blind or legally blind?”
At that point I didn’t see why it mattered.
I was now stuck at the back of the plane near my seat as a slew up passengers filled in behind me. I trusted Beth would be helped.
Partway through the flight I got up to speak with Beth at her seat.
“I’m happy to walk you to your next gate as I’ve got an excruciatingly long layover in Dallas.” I said.
Beth liked that idea and took me up on my offer.
After landing, I picked her up at her seat and we disembarked together.
Over the next half hour that I spent with Beth I observed so much.
I noticed how she took complete responsibility for her experience. As we were exiting the plane she bumped into man that essentially got in her way.
“Oh excuse me, I wasn’t paying enough attention.” She said without an once of self-pity.
Then we were off into the throws of the bustling airport. I was looking for where Beth had to go while simultaneously giving her directions on how many degrees to the right or left to turn, or that she would have to take a “hard left in four feet as we get off the elevator otherwise she will fall into a Christmastree.”
Beth took my directions with ease. At times I would place my hand on her arm, signalling to stay close to me or that we needed to alter our course slightly.
“You give good directions, Melanie.”
I took this as quite the compliment coming from Beth. I immediately had flashbacks to past boyfriend’s not feeling the same way.
We rode the sky-rail at the airport—people offering their seats and Beth declining.
“It’s going to go fast.” A fellow passenger said, cautioning Beth—thinking she would be better off sitting down.
“We’re ok with fast.” She replied.
I liked Beth. A lot.
As we careened through the airport, people would see us coming. Beth with her white cane, sweeping widely from side to side, and me, her sidekick. It was like the parting of the seas—people would look up last minute as they were walking while looking at their phone and then try to quickly dodge us.
Beth desperately needed to use the facilities so I guided her into the bathroom and waited to assist her with finding the sink and paper towel when she was done. She didn’t really need my help but was gracious.
I learned she had two seeing sons, both grown but one back living at home. I had a million questions for her but instead asked her the only one that I felt really mattered:
“Beth do you feel like we live in a friendly universe?”
She responded with such a warm heart, telling me how friendly and helpful people are—that she puts her trust in people but never assumes or expects assistance.
We eventually got to Beth’s gate where she felt her way into a seat. I asked if she needed anything else but she was all set.
I left Beth and a few minutes later passed by her gate again on my way back to my terminal. There she was, perched on the edge of her seat, silent and still. Her gaze was down, hands wrapped around her white cane.
She looked peaceful amidst the movement all around her—people glaring at their screens, or anxiously fidgeting as they impatiently waited for the flight to depart.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I left Beth. She was a teacher for me that morning, in so many ways.
She reminded me that we make the best of what we’ve got and that if you don’t compare yourself to others and get on with your life, there is grace and support everywhere.
Most of all, Beth reminded me that indeed, the Universe is a friendly place. Thank you Beth for helping me see.