Yesterday, I was talking to a server named Lloyd, of the infamous T.G.I.Friday’s in the Reagan National airport, and he made a very good observation about the alphabet for me and that was, how close the letter W was to the letter X. As far as insights on a bar stool go, I thought this was pretty good. It didn’t hurt that Lloyd had provisioned me with several tequila drinks prior to this insight, but I digress.
Traveling is a curious thing. In the brief exchanges you have during your journey, it sometimes feels like there is more authenticity than in your ‘real’ life. I had frank conversations yesterday about relationships, sex, God, politics, and the best way to mend from a broken heart with various travelers, and travel vendors, at 30,000 feet, at a brass bar rail, at a ticket counter, on an escalator, and while driving past memorials of people who’d died fighting for a set of values that I wondered out loud to my cab driver if we’d all but forgotten the meaning of.
My cabbie was a man of faith, a father, and happy grandfather and he posited that it is the secret words you keep inside your heart that wound the most, that only God knows whether your are a man of your word and that this is how we are judged in the end. As we parted at the curb, I realized he’d never put his meter on. He’d said when I got in that it looked like I needed some help today from God and he wouldn’t stand in the way of that. He delivered on his promise.
It made me wonder, are most of us really as good as our words: Given, spoken, written, whispered?
While writing this post in my head (note: if you hang out with writer’s long enough you’ll see them doing this, cannobilizing your very gestures and words as you speak them), I thought a little longingly of the ever-dignified Eleanor Roosevelt, whose words always seemed to strike just the perfect chord on so many important occasions. One of my favourite quotes from her, and one I remind myself of often, is as follows:
“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
Indeed. Our word is really only as good as the choices we make. My mother wasn’t a wordy person like her youngest daughter, dilly-dallying around with adjectives, and superlatives, no, she spoke quietly and stated only what was the truth, with a stripped down sparsity that spoke volumes, slicing through right and wrong, lies laid open by her gentle, but firm insistence that your word–given, spoken, written, whispered–was all that you had in this life that could set you apart as a good person from a bad person. I am thankful I have this example to follow, even when it’s the most difficult choice to make, I choose to be the kind of person who can stand behind her words to others.
Funny how much you can learn on a 12 hour journey cross-country. Thank you to all who made it a better day, especially D. Taylor in Seat 9F, the agent at Alaska Air who made it possible for me to get home quickly and seamlessly, the Visa agent who upgraded my credit limit with no questions, and finally, the funny Canadian customs agent who welcomed me back home, words that were never more pleasurable to hear and believe in.