Halfway into a cross-country flight, the man fell over.
It was a flight that, predictably, I had begun by getting annoyed at everyone who got ahead of me during boarding. Like the guy in a baseball cap and the brown-haired woman with him who appeared in front of me just as they called my zone.
Two hours later, we were flying over Kansas. A short woman watched music videos on her phone. The guy in the baseball cap stood up. A man in a striped shirt went to the bathroom.
The air in the cabin was flat and quiet. Then the guy in the baseball cap fell to the floor of the aisle.
The quiet air rippled to life. “Are you okay, sir?!” people called. The short woman dropped her phone and went straight to him, put her hand on his heart. He was sweating, slow moving, but conscious. Hands on his back guided him to a seat. The man in the striped shirt coming out of the bathroom gave him tissues for the sweat.
He’s traveling with someone, I told the flight attendant, who went to look for the brown-haired woman. Then, not knowing what else to do, I got the guy a bag of ice and wet paper towels.
When I gave them to him, I looked him in the eye to ask how he was. And his eyes were soft and defenseless, two windows into a vulnerable soul.
Oh, I realized, you are so much more than the annoyance I judged you for.
The short woman, who was a nurse, said he would be okay. The brown-haired woman, who was his sister, helped him back to his seat. The hands that had been at his side returned to their own sides.
I went to my seat. What if, I asked myself, you treated everyone like they were a vulnerable soul trying to live as best they know how? Isn’t that what we all are, anyways?
And somewhere over Kansas, I decided I would try. To hold the world more expansively in my own vulnerable soul.