All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be,
and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.
This is the inter-related structure of reality.
~Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
At this time about a year ago, I was sitting in a Dubai airport in the middle of
the night. I was on my way to India, but the plane arrived just late enough for
me to miss my connection, and so I sat an additional seven or eight hours—
making new connections.
I met a wonderful young woman from the United States. We had been on the same incoming plane. She was on her way to visit family in Chennai. We took each other under our wings, sat and watched each other’s luggage while one or the other of us went to explore, get food, or use the restrooms.
As I sat I wrote. Tears streamed down my face. It was an emotional time. There were two young men on the lounge next to me. One of them turned and asked, “Are you a writer?”
“Yes,” I said, wiping away my tears. “And sometimes I get very emotional.” I told him I was writing about all the things we think we control and how none of it we really control. And what grace there is in that. And what relief there is in that. And the tears poured for the humbleness of that. For the situation of what we call life, my life and that of another friend I was writing about at that time.
The two men were surgeons from Iran. The young man and I talked about the sanctions against his country and I said how sorry I was.
And he said, ‘It’s not your fault.”
And I said, “It’s not yours, either.”
“We are just writers and doctors,” he said, “the politicians must figure it out.”
I asked him about the leadership of his country. He said, “Ninety percent of the people are unhappy with the leader, but what can we do?”
He told me how he loves to travel because he thinks all the world’s people really just want love—to love and be loved. I agreed. “Love and laughter,” I said. And he agreed. We shook hands, exchanged cards, and he drifted into the night to catch his plane leaving for Tehran.
I left the young woman with my bags and went in search of a place where I could hook up to wifi. I was gone for half-an-hour. When I returned, she was gone. Missing—with all my carry-on luggage and bags. I wasn’t highly alarmed, but I wasn’t calm either. I looked all over. Asked the people sitting on the chairs and lounges nearby. No one saw her. I thought how kind she was. She couldn’t have just disappeared with my bags. We were from the same area of the country. She had called her husband and relayed my mother’s phone number to him, so he could tell her I was all right. Had I been too trusting? Taken in by a total stranger? No, no way. She was a good person, and I had always read people well.
While something wasn’t right, I wasn’t sure what that something was. I went to the bathroom, thinking a good pee always clears the mind. I had my computer, my passport, and my boarding pass for the next flight. I had someone picking me up in India to take me to the hotel. I was okay. I had no short-term belongings with me, or the precious things I carry on a plane like my essential oils. But I was all right.
When I returned from the bathroom, there she was looking for me. My bags were piled on an airport pushcart, and she explained that our gate had changed and she went to find me so we would have time to get to our next flight. I told her all that had raced through my mind and we laughed over the misconceptions as we walked what seemed like miles to the gate. Sigh. Relief. I knew something was amiss and that there was no need for alarm. Calm. Peace. Relief. She was a friend.
On the flight to India, we flew over Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. I sat next to a young man from Kuwait. There was a moon with a soft orange glow, an oval on its side. I got up to go to the restroom and as I stood waiting, I looked out the windows. There was one very tall light and I wondered what it was. I asked the steward. He laughed and said it was the plane’s tail light, and did he want me to cut it off? “Noooo,” I said, and we both laughed. A more serious tone followed. He pointed out the lights down below, the oil fields aglow on the ground. The things we fight over in this world, the things we make war of in this world. It was so small from such a height.
In early 2004, I wrote, edited, and published a book called Women Celebrate: The Gift in Every Moment. The original title was Women Celebrate: Breaking Silence into Joy. It was about the silences we keep—and about the reservoir of wonder and lightness, peace and strength that floods into our lives when we break them. It came to be a book about turning adversity into strength: A collection of stories and poetry by women celebrating the body, heart, mind and soul, while honoring the journeys we take to reclaim our joy.
Now, Christmas time a year later, as I think about this young doctor, as I think about the book, Women Celebrate, as I think about a recent blog I read which tells the story of a woman who was arrested in Iran for wearing a skirt hiked a little above her knees, I am struck by the lack of freedoms and the opportunity for freedom. Including my own. You see, I have felt imprisoned, too. For ten years I have not written publicly about my travels for reasons that will remain undisclosed. I have not written about the surgeon or the woman who befriended me at the airport that night—until now.
Freedom. It is something I crave, something I stand firm on. In honor of my breaking my own silence here and in honor of people everywhere, I’d like to share with you the story of that young woman in Iran. She ‘taught herself to read and write English so she could write novels to share with the outside world…’ She was arrested for wearing a skirt that showed her knees.
To read the full article, you can go to: “Share a Little Piece of Freedom.”
May you share your freedom by honoring your vision and voice in the coming year. May your vision and voice inspire others until the entire world is free. If anything, I know we are connected. In missing my plane’s connection that late evening in Dubai, I made far more valuable connections that have stayed with me and still resonate to this day. The world is small, oh so small, but friends are everywhere and hearts are big.
Thank you for listening.
Thank you for hearing.
Thank you for seeing.
Blessings to you all.
To learn more about the young Iranian woman and to contribute to her education, go to: “Share a Little Piece of Freedom.”