Most of you know that the year prior to November 2019 was filled with physically and emotionally draining fights with the Canadian government. We were also dealing with the daily stress of the possibility of being blindsided by a deportation sweep and the dark reality that could mean. Neither Vaden nor I could have ever conceptualized the fight we were up against when we stepped into that ring, nor could we have imagined how we would be able to gather enough strength to continue in those last 365 days. We were stressed, tired, broke and damn near broken. But here we were at another airport, yet again. At this point Luther had taken 50 odd flights. At 11 months old he was more comfortable on a plane than he was in a car. This wasn’t a trip back to DR however, we were making our way across the country on Luther’s first domestic flight. Besides Grandma and Gido, none of my family had a chance to meet Luther so when Vaden was offered a speaking gig we jumped on the opportunity to go west.
Our first flight was a puddle hopper from Windsor to Toronto. It was a full flight and the person at the ticketing counter regretfully informed us that Vaden and I were not seated together. Neither of us had thought too much of it considering it was a short flight and certainly wasn’t our first flight with an infant. We boarded the plane and Vaden was sitting one row from the back, while I had a lovely window seat closer to the front. With all the flying we were doing, I quickly realized how spoiled we had been. This two by two configuration was a stark difference to the whole row of three seats with lots of legroom I was used to. As I scrambled to settle in with all of my belongings and the baby on my lap I could feel a tingle of anxiety creeping in, my earlier confidence was now non-existent. I didn’t have nearly as much room as I was used to and I knew that Luther and I would inevitably overflow into our seat mates space. I could feel myself getting hot and I nervously looked to the back of the plane for the slightest reassurance from Vaden. The other passengers were quickly boarding and before I could get his attention a gentleman took his seat next to Luther and I. He was an older gentleman with a gentle demeanor and I could immediately feel a softness about him. It seemed like immediately Martin had introduced himself and Luther had already taken a liking to him. Instantly my anxiety washed away. It wasn’t too long before Martin and I were lost in conversation. He laughed at Luther’s obsession with his glasses as that was also a highlight for his young grandson. We talked about how we both were doing a lot of traveling. I explained that we were all excited to finally go to my ‘home town’ with Luther, loaded with the knowledge that my parents were soon moving closer to us. We even touched on why Luther had taken so many flights but unlike every other conversation surrounding bringing Widlene home I tried to focus more on the positive instead of the stress and anguish of the fight. There were a few moments where Luther was a little edgy but Martin quickly assured me that it really was no bother to him. That flight went by quickly and by the end of it, the conversation flowed so naturally that I felt like I was sitting beside a lifelong friend. As I got off the plane I felt like my heart grew a little. Vaden and I had been so caught up in our battle that there was something so reassuring about meeting someone so genuine, like I had regained a little hope for humanity.
We said our “goodbyes” and “safe travels” and that’s where I thought this story ended. Little did I know that months later a facebook message would prove that theory wrong.
In late March, W5 aired their “Prisoner in Paradise” episode and people were tuning in across Canada. Vaden, Widlene and I were huddled around a computer streaming the episode from our couch in Dominican Republic. After it ended the messages and comments from Bring Widlene Home supporters came flying in faster than we could keep up with. Eventually we had to stop and just go to bed or else we could be reading and replying until the sun came up.
Sitting down with my morning coffee the next day, I opened a message that would teach me a life lesson. It was a message from a lady explaining that I didn’t know who she was but she was watching W5 the night before and made her husband sit down and watch it with her. She even explains that she said to her husband “this reminds me of that lovely lady you met with the baby on that flight”. As they continued to watch Martin pipes in with the exclamation “you know what, that is her!”
Between a few interactions with Ela, Martin’s wife, I learned that Martin had gone home and told his wife all about meeting Luther and I and our adventure on the plane. Ela explained that Martin travels about 285 days a year for the last 5 years. It is very rare that Martin would come home and talk about a flight. When something happens so often it becomes second nature and has a tendency to become forgettable. But then Ela said something that has stuck with me ever since.
“You and Luther changed his life that day.”
I personally had gotten so much out of that flight that day. I used the hope that Martin instilled in my heart as fuel. I did not stop to consider that the other person would have been able to gain something from me at the same time.
That statement hit me hard. In a really tough time in my life I saw an opportunity to just be real. To be kind. To enjoy the present moment, and a few laughs with someone I thought I would never hear from again. I didn’t have to but I did. I did it to be positive and because it just felt right.
I had always thought I prided myself in living this way but I didn’t realize the depth of which the concept is so true. Be kind to ALL of those you meet. You never know what you can provide for someone. You never know what another soul is searching for. You never know if a gentle smile or a nice gesture may just “change a life that day”.
So, thank you Martin for reminding me of one of life's greatest lessons.