Let me start by saying I have missed talking to the three of you who read my blog the last two weeks (just kidding, I think there are a few more of you than three). but I was in Kenya (building a classroom for a primary school in Machacos County outside Nairobi) and let's just say internet was "iffy" (and by that, I mean I would get kicked off every five minutes---not at all frustrating when I was trying to enter grades for my students in the Finance course I am teaching).
So, I was telling some folks this morning about my trip, which consisted of one week of building the classroom (anyone who knows me should not even attempt to imagine me mixing concrete and sawing boards ---- did you know they actually want you to saw the cuts in a straight line? I think that is a bit picky, but what do I know??) and then a few days on safari (we saw four out of the "big five" as there weren't any rhinos in our area---but lots of hippos and that made up for it). While telling these folks about the two weeks, I got choked up because I honestly couldn't say which week was "better" (working my buttocks off building and playing and working with the children and teachers at that school OR going on the safari). Both were transformational in different ways. During the "build", I had a chance to witness children who were so excited about learning new things: we sang with them, I made up songs to teach them, I taught them in class one day, I taught their teachers a couple of cool new strategies to use in the classroom, and these kids couldn't wait for recess, not so they could go run and play with their friends, but so they could come and help us throw 25 pound rocks into the foundation of their new classroom. The teachers, dressed in their Sunday best, got in on the mixing of the concrete as well. We were, to say the least, overwhelmed at the welcome and the appreciation these folks had for the work we did.
Contrast that with sitting in a jeep every morning and evening for game drives to seek out mama and baby elephants, female lions with their cubs who rough-and-tumbled all over each other, the male lion, the cheetah who looked like it wanted to prey on an animal but didn't want us watching, and the most elusive of all --- the leopard. Nothing compares to seeing these gorgeous animals in the wild. I may never be able to go to a zoo again.
So, the next piece of my story is going to sound so trivial, but I pray you will stick with me, as it speaks to what is important. At the end of two weeks being away from home, I was so ready to simply be teleported back to Tucson from Nairobi. But no, we first had an 8 hour flight to Frankfurt, which was fine. Then, in Frankfurt, I boarded an almost 12-hour flight to San Francisco. The dear agent in the Lufthansa lounge said to me, "I can't bump you to first class because you used award miles, but I can get you in a 4-person row all to yourself. You can stretch out and sleep." Yes! (not about the no-first-class-because-you-used-award-miles----that part stinks! I earned those miles. But then I remembered the children who were so overly thrilled we brought duffel bags full of paper, crayons, markers, scissors, etc. and I felt guilty about being picky).
So, I get on the plane, and take my seat (I'm on one end of a four-person row). A few minutes later, a lady sits down on the other end of the four-person row. Uh-oh. Danger, Will Robinson, I guess I don't have that whole row to myself. That's okay. I can at least stretch out on two seats. Her husband sat across the aisle from her, next to a couple ---- the three of them filling up their three-person row). The lady turns to me and asks, "Will you go switch with my husband?" "Ummmmmm.....no way, Jose'" (okay, I didn't exactly say that---what I did say was "No thank you. I had my seat changed to have some room to sleep as I just flew all night from Nairobi." She looked at me and said, "Come on...I want to sit by him. Do it for me." Okay, now, I'm not sure she realizes I am jet-lagged, worn out and getting a little miffed. "No thank you" I repeated. "Why don't you just have him come sit by you? There is an open seat right next to you!" She glared at me and he moved over and she moved over. Now, we have three of the four-person-row the gate agent had given me for my status taken up. My blanket and book were on the one empty seat next to me, which still held the pillow and blanket the airline had laid out for that seat. The "lady" (yes, it's in quotes for a reason) reaches over and grabs the pillow from the empty seat. "Seriously?" I asked. "Your husband can just grab the pillow from the seat he just vacated!" She said, "This one's fine." At this time, she takes off her shoes and puts her naked, smelly (oh, wait, I didn't mention the smelly part yet? Dear Lord, have mercy on her soul!) FEET and puts them up on the one empty seat next to me ---- she put them ON MY BLANKET!! "Oh no, now come on" I said, "you're not going to do that. That is not just rude, it is nasty. You paid for two seats, and you are now taking up four of them!!" She glared at me again, and said, "Don't worry about it." Did I mention how tired I was? For just one moment, I wanted to punch her in the face (I feel being honest with you is important, if not terribly kind) or at least stab her stinky feet (sorry).
Instead, I started thinking about what the entire trip had been for me and the humility it had taught me. And so, instead of inflicting harm on her, I simply got up and asked the flight attendant if there were two empty seats anywhere on the plane. She sympathized totally (as the stinky-feet-lady had already asked said flight attendant if she would marry her son and the flight attendant had to basically do a moonwalk backwards to get out of that conversation) and found me another two seats in which I could stretch out and get a couple of hours of rest.
What was so important? I wondered later. Well, you could argue that I was told I would have a row to myself and that didn't happen, so I was mad. But that incident, after having children call my name each morning, "Shelly! Shelly!" then mimic one of the songs I had taught them about peanut-butter and jelly or hug me to get their picture taken with me? Stinky-feet-lady wasn't going to ruin all that for me. So I made a choice.
Every time I have the opportunity, I am going to try to choose what is most important, in this case---my own sanity and serenity over getting angrier and angrier.
What lesson can you garner from this?
1. If you see my stinky-feet-lady friend, don't sit next to her on the plane. She will invade your space like the plague.
2. Doing for others is likely as rewarding as doing something, albeit beautiful, for yourself.
3. Don't let the little things get you down. Our Cadillac problems simply don't compare to 3rd-world issues.
Blessings to each one of you!