By Tim McLeod, NCRC-II Director of Alumni Relations & Connect365, Sierra Tucson Lately, it seems we’ve all heard the aggravation associated with airline travel. Hearing those stories reminded me...
By Tim McLeod, NCRC-II
Director of Alumni Relations & Connect365, Sierra Tucson
Lately, it seems we’ve all heard the aggravation associated with airline travel. Hearing those stories reminded me of my own unpleasant experiences from several years ago. I was traveling home from Tucson to Kansas City and changing planes in Dallas. Due to weather delays, my flight that was supposed to get me home by 9:45 p.m. was now going to arrive at 12:45 a.m. Was I frustrated? You bet. Yet, at that time, I had no idea that the most memorable part of my day’s adventure was about to begin and, ultimately through my own choice, I would be getting home even later than expected.
When we finally got to Dallas, after waiting out bad weather and landing in San Antonio to refuel, I boarded the plane and sat in my usual window seat on the left side of the aircraft so I could lean to the right and get some sleep. As I was creating my sleep space with those nasty airline blankets and adjusting my head rest just right to avoid a tweaked neck for the next five days, I noticed the gate agent was assisting a blind man down the aisle. He ended up being seated right next to me. His first words when he sat down were “I will not travel through Dallas again for a long time. I have been trying to get home to Kansas City since yesterday!”
He shared that his trip home had started off the day before in Atlanta where he was spending time with his family. After more small talk, we both ended up shutting our eyes and slept until we got to Kansas City.
When we landed, I asked him how he was getting home from the airport. He said, “I was planning on taking the shuttle because I do not want to wake my wife. She works at a hospital and must be at work at 4:00 a.m.” I shared with him I did not think the shuttle runs after midnight and that if he needed help, I would be willing to give him a ride home. So, we agreed to meet in the baggage claim area.
After gathering my bag and the gate agent had helped him get his, I walked over to him and reiterated my offer to take him home. I then asked him his name. He said “Don.” I said “Don, my name is Tim. I am going to get my car and I will be right back to pick you up.”
As I bounced along on the parking lot shuttle bus, I was thinking about the trust level this man has. I am someone he just met, cannot see, and yet, he is trusting ME to give him a ride home. Wow!
As I drove up to passenger pickup area Don was there waiting with his bag. I got out of my car and headed over to him and said, “Your ride is here!” He said, “Tim, if you will take my bag and I will place my hand on your shoulder and follow you to your car.”
Inside the car as we started driving to Don’s apartment, a litany of thoughts raced through my mind. How is he going to show me where to go if I get lost? How does he know I am even going the right way? Is he afraid I may rob him or harm him?
As we talked during the ride, he shared how being stranded in an airport all day would not be that bad if one was not blind. He said he had to ask someone to guide him to go to the bathroom and to get something to eat. He said some people would tell him they would be right back and then never show up again!
While his retelling of his ordeal painted a picture of his experience, it was actually HOW he shared it that really struck me! Mentioning that people would say one thing and do another, there was no sign of resentment in his voice. He just took it as that is the way it is sometimes.
Since he was being so open with me, I mustered enough courage to ask him how he lost his sight. Don shared that he went to a bank to cash his paycheck and on his way out he was shot in the head. He said, “The person who shot me did not even rob me. They just shot me and drove off.” Again, not one ounce of resentment in his voice. He quietly said that he was glad to still be alive.
Don said that while he lost 94% of his sight, he could still see shadows. He then shared about his wonderful job, his marriage, and all the friends he had.
When we arrived at his apartment, I helped him out and got his bag for him. He said, “Tim thank you so much, I know how to get from here into my place. Please feel free to stop by anytime and just ask for Don; everyone knows who I am.” I stood back and watched Don as he walked up the sidewalk, turned left up the stairs, and right into his door.
Suddenly the weather delays, the interminable waiting throughout the day, the fatigue that was kicking in, and the frustration of getting home much later than planned, no longer mattered. Here I was in downtown Kansas City in a part of town unfamiliar to me at 2:00 a.m. sitting in my car dumbstruck. What had just taken place?
I could not keep from thinking about the trust and faith this man had in me and other complete strangers. I thought to myself “why am I not willing to place my hand on a shoulder for guidance – whether it is my sponsor’s, my therapist’s, or God’s to trust them to guide me?”
Then the song, “Amazing Grace” came to mind. The words I heard were, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” I thought about this for a moment. Then I came to this conclusion. Don was blind but could see a whole lot better than me.
Isn’t going through recovery a lot like Don’s journey?
Surrendering our baggage, sometimes being disappointed by people we counted on, and ultimately having no choice but to be vulnerable and admit that we need to be guided. Recovery requires us to find the courage, reach up in the dark, and trust that shoulder in front of us.
Ask yourself – are you willing to place your hand on someone’s shoulder who is willing to help guide you?