Posted by: Nancy | August 16, 2009


The lesson came at the airport. I was there with my younger sister, who has a disability, and who was going to be traveling home alone. I was concerned about her — but wanted her to feel confident and assured.

The airline attendant announced that it was time for preboarding. We rose to join the line. I was still coaching her, and as we moved to join the line, we cut in front of someone.

I hadn’t seen him.

Or maybe I saw him but didn’t imagine him in a preboarding line.

Nevertheless, I stepped in front of him guiding my sister.

“I don’t mind you going ahead of me,” he said, “but I was in line.”

I felt like crawling under a rock, how stupid of me — why didn’t I see him and register that he was in line? I was preoccupied but my lack of respect was as stunning to me as a blow. How did this happen?

I apologized, but he insisted that my sister go ahead of him. Then with a big smile and gesture full of welcoming grace, he offered to help her get settled on the plane. She happily took his arm and they trotted off.

Suddenly I’m alone there, without a chance to say anything further but call out my thanks as they walk down the jetway.

Later, I replayed the scene in my mind. I had made an assumption that he wasn’t in line, my concern for my sister had propelled me to block out others — and it was exactly the wrong behavior.  I was wrong, acting without seeing and without concern for others.  It was a powerful lesson, and I send my thanks to my unknown teacher for opening my eyes with his personal coaching. It was an uncomfortable moment, but a necessary one.

I thank him because his actions changed me.

I know what it feels like to be invisible to others, to be overlooked. I pride myself on my enlightened respect for others — yet here I was, utterly blind to others in this moment. I was so appalled at myself that I have been consciously training myself to see more — to observe and watch and think and serve others more actively. To really see.

I am learning, and while I have a long way to go, I will get better at this as I practice it more.


  1. […] Learning Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Week 12 This entry was posted in Adventures, Medical. Bookmark the permalink. We are siblings and advocates → […]

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