"We get so wrapped up in numbers in our society. The most important thing is that we are able to be one-to-one, you and I with each other at the moment. If we can be present to the moment with the person that we happen to be with, that’s what’s important."– Fred Rogers
My last scheduled flight of 2019 was the best flight I ever missed.
I was in Los Angeles trying to get home to my family for an extended Christmas break. While looking for my departing flight, I realized it was possible to make a flight on a different airline, through a different connecting city, arriving two hours earlier – allowing me to see my kids that evening.
Although there was a change fee, the opportunity to visit with my little ones before bed, tuck them in, and then to visit, reconnect and have a glass of wine with Beth afterwards would be priceless.
With the change made I boarded the plane, buckled up, got the pregame pep talk from the flight attendants and pushed back from the gate. I texted Beth that I was on the earlier flight and to let the kids know I couldn’t wait to see them.
And then, on the tarmac, we waited.
Until the captain explained there was a mechanical glitch. A part needed to be brought from another part of the airport and installed by maintenance. Although we'd eventually depart, the delay was enough that not only would I miss my connecting flight, I'd be getting home even later than the original flight. So much for the priceless financial investment to get home early!
But my friends, have you noticed that the detours and the delays of life are frequently where the best of life happens? Have you noticed that often the best, most important place for us to be in life isn't where we necessarily wish we were, but where we end up being?
The most meaningful and truly best of life often occurs when we have the courage and humility to say yes to life, however it unfolds. It's only then we can be present for the people who need us most… and who we most need, too.[Click to tweet.]
To My Surprise
Arriving at the connecting airport, I dejectedly made my way to the late-night flight the airline had rebooked for me. I boarded the plane, head hung low, still pouting and shuffled to my seat. In the fifth row, directly next to where I was rebooked, sat a dear friend looking up with an enormous smile.
This is a man I've admired for years in the way he grows his business, cares about others, lives out his faith and loves his family.
This is a man who serves on my board of advisors, challenges me to think more critically, and is first in line to support any project, any book, any conference or any charitable project we launch.
And this is a man as passionate about his family and his children as anyone I've met, still reeling from the sudden death of his 20-year-old son. Ethan LoCigno lost his battle with depression last February.
And immediately the emotions of seeing each other and reconnecting moved us both to tears.
Rather than use that flight to drink coffee, keep my head down and get work done, we shared a beer, toasted his son, and focused on something far more important than emails and deadlines. Mark shared the beauty of Ethan's life, the heartache of his death and the immensity of living with an unimaginable loss.
I met Ethan only a handful of times. While many kids might look at the floor or off in this distance, Ethan looked right me as if I was the only person in the room. While most kids (and many adults) feel anxiety when I extend my hand for them to shake, Ethan happily would extend his, wrap my hand with both of his hands, pulling me toward him. While many kids think life is only about them and what they might get out of it, Ethan made his entire life about helping others, always trying to make others feel special, accepted, loved, alive.
Which is why the end of his vibrant life remains so shocking.
My friends, Mark and his family continue celebrating Ethan's life while mourning his passing. They continue putting effort and resources toward championing awareness and prevention of suicide. And they continue reminding others of the profound gift that life is. Visit the beautiful tribute page they’ve put together here.
On that late evening flight back home, I asked Mark what he'd share with others who are struggling today.
Mark thoughtfully looked down, cupped his hands together, collected his thoughts, looked back at me with the wisdom of a man who has loved and lost and learned what really matters, before replying:
Life is fragile.
You are a gift.
You do belong.
You are not alone.
We can get through this.
[Click to tweet.]
On a Friday in late December, I missed a flight and the chance to be present with my family. But I haven't missed the opportunity to fully see them, wholly give thanks for them and totally share my love with them each day since.
So, on the start of this day, this week, I encourage you not to miss your chance to be fully immersed with the people that matter most. Life is a gift. Let's not miss it.
This is your day. Live Inspired.