I walked on to the plane feeling afraid. Not afraid of flying. No. I’d rather fly over being in a car. Instead it was fear of the unknown. There is so much growth happening in our business—our dreams are taking flight. And I think I finally looked down and realized how far “down” was. Tears came, off and on, from the time I woke up yesterday morning till the time I found my seat on the plane last night.
Brian and the kids were flying home on Virgin America, and I found myself alone not only on the flight but in my aisle. In a stretch of six seats, mine was the only one taken. But right before they closed the doors, a flight attendant led one more passenger by hand and seated her across from me.
She was modest in every way; a woman in her late sixties with short graying hair. She wore a simple long, navy skirt and navy cardigan. She wore dark, thick nylons from my grandmother’s generation. And her black shoes had been worn in long ago. She was a nun. The flight attendant helped her sit down, spoke to her in Spanish and then walked away. I could tell she wasn’t used to flying. Her focus kept shifting, and she’d bite at her thumbnail every few seconds.
The flight attendant came back with a helper and informed him that she was not only unable to speak English, but she was also blind. When I heard this my heart went out to her. I asked the flight attendant to tell her I was across the aisle, and if she needed anything at all, all she had to do was reach out her hand and let me know. I gently placed my hand on her arm so she knew how close I was as he translated my words. She looked in my direction and gave me the sweetest smile.
As the plane started down the runway, this brave woman started praying under her breath. She rubbed her hands together over and over again. I wanted to tell her we would be fine, but I didn’t know how. And then we were in the air, and I couldn’t help myself any longer. I reached over and placed my hand on her arm again, “Are you okay?” She turned my way and smiled with a simple yes in Spanish. She wasn’t convincing at all. But her “yes” was of the determined kind.
And there she sat, flying, despite all her fears.
When we landed, she reached out her hand to me. I took it, and she held mine gently with both of hers. “Gracias” she said, “Gracias”. Her eyes were physically unable to see me, but I felt like she was looking right through me. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I squeezed her hand back and said gracias in return. There we stood for a quiet moment, holding hands, and I realized that fear had come face to face with blind courage. And without me even having time to say goodbye, fear was gone. Her smile and unfocused eyes chased all the fear away. I must admit, I didn’t want to let go of her hand. I felt stronger than I’d felt all day in that single moment of holding hands.
I walked off the plane and realized her blind courage had revived me. It wasn’t about flying in style; she was terrified. But at the end of the day, despite all the odds she faced, this modest nun took her fears, wrung her hands, prayed fervently under her breath, said her Hail Mary and took flight into the darkness. The wonderful mystery in it all is that she took me with her and left me changed.
This last weekend in San Fransisco, twenty-one women took their own flight of blind courage at the San Fransisco CONFIDENCE Workshop. Tomorrow I’m bringing you Part 1 of their amazing journey. But here is a taste of what’s to come!
This is the photo I was shooting–sweet, miracle baby Jillian.
A handful of our beautiful, courageous women!
Me showing the ladies what I’m shooting, and why I’m setting the shot up a certain way.
Much more to come.
May your wings feel stronger today as you fly with blind courage.