The airport is a wonderful place to people watch. I was recently delayed at an airport for about three hours with my husband as we traveled home. We walked all around the terminals, up and down escalators, bustling along with the hurried crowds or standing and waiting while the moving walkway took us down the long corridors. I loved observing the different people. All body shapes and sizes, every style of dress imaginable, the very aged walking slowly or being driven around, the barely-born being carried or pushed in strollers. The vast variety of humanity was beautiful and spectacular.
It was interesting to observe the relationships. An older woman was face-timing a loved one as she waited to board her plane. Parents were traveling with young children trying to keep everyone together. A young mother was trying to find her way in an unfamiliar place with her baby in the stroller and her mother was trying to help her navigate and pulling the suitcases. The young couple who appeared to be on their way to or from a romantic getaway couldn’t hide their excitement. It was fun to think about what the stories were that led them all to be in the airport that day. Were they going home as my husband and I were? Or were they embarking on their adventures? What had they come from? Where were they going?
All of these observations were made when I could also only see part of everyone’s faces because of the federal mask mandate. It was hard to not see people’s smiles or be able to better share mine. Of course, I was smiling behind my mask and trying to make eye contact when I could, but I felt almost abbreviated in the reduced interaction.
But isn’t that the case, with people watching, with casual interactions, sometimes even with friendships? Our understanding of the story of those individuals with whom we associate is abbreviated. We only see what they let us see, and only for those short amounts of time. Our paths cross for moments or we walk together for years, and we may still never know the quiet hidden parts.
I have long loved the saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” because it is so true. We all have our battles to face. When we see what someone else is facing, even that small glimpse that is visible to the outsider, we sometimes can be more thankful for our own battles. This quote is often attributed to Plato or Emerson, but I was happy to find on this site an attribution that was more clear and correct couched in a quote from the Chicago Tribune in 1965: “Most of us are acutely aware of our own struggles and we are preoccupied with our own problems. We sympathize with ourselves because we see our own difficulties so clearly. But Ian MacLaren noted wisely, ‘Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.’”
Everyone around the world has been fighting a hard battle for longer than the effects of COVID-19 have been dealing blows from travel restrictions to the loss of life. Everyone has a need for kindness. I hope that you have an opportunity to see those around you to whom you can share love or even masked smiles. Reach out even from your distance. Do what you can to lift someone else, and find that you are yourself lifted. Sometimes, even our abbreviated efforts make all of the difference.