Last time I traveled to California, I sat at San Jose International Airport waiting for my flight to be called, hooked up to my iPod and distracted by my book, when a man whose plane had just arrived entered the gate with arms outstretched in a “Y” above his head. He was mumbling, as if on a cell phone with one of those wireless speakers. Something about his excited presence was out of place. But he was smiling. No, truly beaming. Was he about to greet his wife or a friend?
He looked right at me and briefly caught my eye. Not usually one to avoid connecting with people this way, for some reason I turned away, uncomfortable with such direct eye contact. Was I mistrusting because I was at the airport where incessant loudspeaker chatter dictated the threat level and therefore how scared I should be of the slightest anomaly? Of a man who acts more boldly than the typical airport automaton? Of a man smiling?
As he passed by me, I heard him call out: “I’m in America! My first time in San Jose! What a great country!” with arms still extended, truly savoring the moment.
I finally found my smile, too late to connect with him, but amazed at the simple joy of what I just witnessed. A few other passengers waiting for the plane to DIA finally looked up from their laptops and we exchanged small, contented smiles. I started tearing up, thinking about this country and thinking about Obama.
I don’t know who the man was or why he came to the U.S., but I am so very lucky to have shared the experience with him, even if in a very small way. As I sat there taking it all in, I noticed Sarah McLaughlin’s “Ordinary Miracle” playing on my iPod, a perfect soundtrack for the moment.
I agree with him: this can be a great country. So here’s to good thoughts for a great country on inauguration day… and for many more ordinary miracles to come.