I am on a plane. I’m on Southwest, so I can’t reference my seat number like classy writers do, but I’m on the left hand side of the plane about 5 rows behind the exist row.
I am sitting next to a man. It’s crowded. I’m in the window seat and he’s the unlucky one who got the middle seat. It’s a 5 hour flight. Boston to Denver. The sun is reflecting the prettiest color of orange out my window. A thick layer of clouds beneath me and ahead on the horizon. But then, this fire orange and red—it’s thick. Above it, it’s a bit lighter, then breaking into yellow and a big expanse of blue.
I’ve been working on some ideas on my computer. Lots of work. Me: typing, typing, typing. Spreadsheets and to-do lists. Drinking my wine (thanks SWA drink coupon) and I notice my neighbor reading something. He’s reading something in a different language, so I can’t spy to see what the title is or the words on a page. But, about 10 minutes ago, I noticed something. He started wiping tears from his eyes. At first, I thought maybe he was sick or he was just tired and rubbing his eyes. But, I think he is legit crying. I think those are tears. He keeps wiping his tears.
It looks like a book he’s reading—a kindle edition on his phone…but something is moving him to tears. And as I sit here, dying to intrude and ask him a million questions, I’m reminded that words and stories move us. They change us. He is probably in his 40s, of some sort of Asian descent (also the writing is in some sort of Asian) and he has been staring at his phone for the last 2 hours...and now he is weeping.
He keeps wiping his tears.
As I sit here, I wonder who wrote the story he’s reading? What part of the story is so moving to him? What part of his own story is resonating so much with him that tears stream from his face? Why is he moved to tears? I’m sure he doesn’t want to cry in the middle seat of SWA flight 6387, but he clearly can’t stop. I want to cry with him and hug him…which don’t worry…I know is inappropriate, but still. What is moving him to tears?
I am reminded that our stories matter. Your story matters. No matter how we share them…'cause we all share them in different ways. Some with your kids over meal time, some in songs and on a guitar, some with a neighbor over happy hour, some with millions on a talk show, some with your BFF in high school. It doesn’t matter how, but we need you and your story.
If you’re writing and think that your story isn’t going to move someone to tears one day, I’d encourage you to rethink that. Or if you’re an artist and you don’t think your art is going to move people, I want to tell you to reconsider.
I wonder if the person who wrote whatever he’s reading knew it would move a man on a plane to tears. And that by his tears, a (somewhat intrusive neighbor passenger) stranger would also be moved and reminded that words matter. Our perspectives and creativity and lives matter.
Oh gosh, I hope he’s not reading my screen. That would be awkward. Ah heck, what do I know…maybe he’s just got really bad allergies and is reading an email. Haha.
Already in the time it took to write this, the magical shade of fire orange has faded. I’m glad I stopped to study it while it was there.
I am trying not to miss as much these days.