I love to travel, and I love to drive. It's during movement that I'm most open to feeling the hand of the universe. It might be a short trek to work or a long drive across the country. So three years ago when a retired friend was looking for someone to drive her back from Florida, I jumped at the chance. It has since become an annual trip. This year, as I prepared for my flight to Florida, I was concerned about the predicted snow storm, set to hit the morning of my departure. But, as so often happens during travel, I felt an underlying force at play when I received a phone call notifying me my cancelled flight the following day. A series of events unfolded and 4 hours after the phone call I boarded a plane to Florida in Detroit, via Atlanta, a day earlier than expected.
The young man and I talked about transition and how he is attempting to take everything in stride, one moment at a time. Several friends suggested he see a therapist, but he joked that they needed it more than he did. While he was meeting life on its terms, others were uncomfortable with the transition. We had brief conversations about life, death and living our passions no matter what the obstacles. Somehow the conversation turned toward how we would react if we knew the plane was going down. The young man said that sometimes when there’s a lot of turbulence on a plane it's scarey but after it’s over he realizes the excitement and fun of the experience. I compared it to a roller coaster ride and we both got a chuckle at the analogy. We agreed, right then and there, if our plane went down, we would both raise our hands in the air and yell, like we would do on a roller coaster.
We didn't talk much during the night time flight but I reflected on our conversation. I knew from my own life journey this young man, still in transition, had a ride ahead of him. There would be days when he would put his arms up in the air and yell with laughter, but there would also be days when he would be scared and wonder when the ride would end. He would be facing his own darkness, and it would be up to him if he sank or swam. While he had died in many different ways, he was still coming back. I was reminded of my own journey into darkness and the struggle to come back. I thought about transition and how I wished I had a powerful story go get me through those dark times. A powerful story can help us see that transition, while difficult, can lead to something more wonderful than we could have ever expected. "The Boy Who Died and Came Back" gives us those stories like no other book. And I knew, as our plane landed, what this boy in transition needed.
I asked the young man if he liked to read. He said he hadn't read since high school and even then it never really captured his attention. I took out my copy of "The Boy Who Died and Came Back". I handed him the book and said “This will capture your attention!” He was hesitant, as if he didn't want to disappoint me, a complete stranger, by not reading it. But he took it and was soon excited at the potential, telling me when, where and how he would be reading in Florida.
We disembarked, and with that ease of walking I had noticed several hours earlier, he speed ahead of me. We walked down the long terminal for about 10 minutes with him 50 feet ahead of me. When we neared the exit, I saw him turn around, look at me, turn back, and with "The Boy Who Died and Came Back" in his hand, raised it over his head. A recognition. An appreciation.
I love when I'm on the road, and something unexpected happens, an unexpected meeting, an unexpected conversation, an unexpected gift. It's in those unexpected moments that I feel that unseen hand of the universe. The image of this young man, on a his own transformative journey, celebrating the gift of story. A book. A boy. My adventures traveling. The hand of the universe unfolding stories before me.