45 years ago, an American Airlines stewardess at La Guardia airport, ushered me on to a departing, cross-country flight for which I had no reservation, no ticket and no money. She did not follow the rules or protocol despite the fact that I was clearly a minor. Instead, she ran back into the plane, alerted the pilot, and cleared me a space in First Class. Her decision to follow her instincts that night, instead of her training, may well have saved my life.
Even the yellow brick road to Oz was full of perils and so it is with us. Follow the path of most anyone’s charmed existence long enough and it often leads to some sad side roads: the train track scar behind the ears of that girl who looks “amazing for her age;” the obituary of a neighbor’s son who committed suicide or the sudden divorce of longtime friends. You know the stories.
But it does beg the question: how much do we actually ‘know’ about the ‘real’ lives of our friends or even family members? Our reality is often obscured by an amorphous haze. We have hunches, feelings or instincts about things but we simply leave them at that. Those twinges in our gut get pushed down into a box that we tiptoe around. Every now and then, though, we get a jolt. It’s like driving. You don’t quite think about it until you hit something or someone crashes into you. By then, of course, it’s too late.
Imagine the ‘jolts’ received by those who knew the 20 year-old who killed his mom, then a classroom full of children at Sandy Hook Elementary. His parents and older brother ‘always knew’ he had mental issues, yet they didn’t let themselves ‘know’ the full reach of what he might be capable of. It kept them from taking action sooner and now 26 people are dead and the lives of thousands more have been irrevocably changed.
So today perhaps, try running with your hunches. It will mean confronting the Great Unknown. It might get messy or awkward or uncomfortable. You may even be wrong. Maybe, though, you will change the future course of events into something more positive than it might have been otherwise. Have you really any greater purpose in living than that? I wish I could thank that stewardess today.
Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes.”