“A plane hit the World Trade Center in New York,” my coworker calls out. Being the town crier of the office, Margaret was always informing us of every little news item, whether we ask or not. I roll my eyes and try to refocus on my work.
“A second one just hit the other tower!” she yells.
OK, now she has my attention. I get up and run to her office.
“What’s going on?”
“All I know is that two 747s have crashed into The World Trade Center.”
Having assumed the planes were small, private ones, I’m shocked to hear they’re jets.
I go back to my office to read any updates I can find online. Just then, my sister, Lisa calls.
“When is Cheryl (another sister) leaving for California?” she asks.
“She has a speaking engagement on Friday, so I imagine she’d be leaving Thursday, or Wednesday at the earliest.”
As I answer her question, I suddenly realize why she’s asking. These planes originated from Boston, where Cheryl would depart, and were bound for California — where Cheryl was going.
“Oh, Lisa, she wouldn’t have been on one of those planes. Don’t give it another thought.”
I hang up the phone and remove the possibility from my mind. I do my best to get back to work, though my attention is understandably distracted.
About 30 minutes later, Lisa calls back. “Cheryl’s safe. She was on her way to California today, on a plane set to take off just after those that were flown into the Towers! She’s stuck on the tarmac and they won’t let her off the plane.”
“OK, thanks,” is all I can say.
I hang up the phone and unexpectedly burst into tears. I had no idea how worried I was.
Eventually, Cheryl gets home, and we’re all relieved. The relief then turns to empathy for those whose loved ones are not safe and sound.
I say a prayer of thanks and begin thinking about how I can support those not so fortunate. A strong desire to help became the default for many of us around the world. And that’s what stands out for me on this 13th anniversary of that horrific day.
We all seemed to have such a powerful connection to one another; many wanted to search, to support, and to comfort. While it’s a shame that it sometimes takes a tragedy to see our commonality, it shows how capable we are of dropping the judgments, the hate, and the discriminating beliefs, and see one another as human beings doing the very best we can.
We must continue to honor those 3,000 lost souls by seeing our connected human-ness on a daily basis; by remembering what we felt toward each other in the days after the attack. Peace and progress come from celebrating our differences, not fearing them.
The smallest actions can connect us deeply. A smile, a wave, holding the door open, offering a piece of gum, buying someone a coffee or tea — while seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, touching someone’s life in this tiny way can create far-reaching ripples of joy.
So to inspire positive action on what could be a dark day, I think a Random Act of Kindness is in order. So here is your challenge, should you choose to accept it:
Offer a compliment to everyone you come in contact with today. If you know their names, include it whenever possible. It helps to really personalize the kind words.
“Joe, you have a beautiful smile.”
“You look great in that shirt, Nancy.”
“Sarah, you’re such a joy to be around.”
“Robert, it was beautiful to see how present and reassuring you were with your daughter yesterday.”
Imagine going about your day looking for ways to compliment someone. Not a bad way to pass the time, eh? So, are you up for it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this, and about your kindness experiment, even if you remember to give just one compliment. Please join the conversation in the comments below. I’m listening…
Until next week, keep taking those small steps to Live Out Loud.