Last week, I was on the most turbulent flight I’ve ever experienced – and I fly a lot!
I’m not talking some minor bumps. The plane was rockin’ and rollin’ for nearly 45 minutes of the 90-minute flight. People were crying, pale-faced, and yes, even tossing their cookies.
As usual on a morning flight, I popped my ear buds in and zoned out before we even left the gate.
But as the roller coaster started, I pulled one ear bud out and made an obligatory comment to the older gentleman sitting next to me. “This is crazy!” I said.
We were both fortunate that Pumps, Bumps and Rollers (a name for this flight I borrowed from one of my son’s favorite mountain bike trails) didn’t turn our stomachs.
We started chatting.
His name was Mr. Mitchell, and he was in his 80’s, heading to his homeland of Scottland for the first time in 5 years. He looked exactly like you’d imagine an 80-year-old Scottish lad to look – friendly face, white hair around the edges, slow to move and speak, thick accent, yet welcoming.
I started asking questions.
I learned about his family, his cousin that had passed over Covid and the amazing adventure he was embarking on to spread his ashes around a castle in the middle of a small island in norther Scottland.
He told me about growing up with mutual friends of John Lennon, his time as a DJ, a CEO, a luxury car dealership GM, a radio show host, meeting the Pope, and now his volunteer roles at the local hospice consignment shop. He shared how he restocks all our community library boxes every two weeks and always includes children’s books.
I was fascinated. I kept asking. He kept sharing. I could tell he found joy in sharing his tales of a life of adventure. Now, he could have been making all these experiences up, but I don’t think so.
When the air became smooth and our flight was coming to an end, I asked him, “Mr. Mitchell, you’ve had an incredible life. What’s the one thing you have taken away from all of this?”
“You have to enjoy the journey,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Mr. Mitchell reminded me that life takes us on a crazily circuitous path. Unique opportunities will come and go for everyone. But he had the keen sense of awareness to recognize when one comes knocking, and the courage to open the door and walk through.
Before I knew it, the tumultuous flight was over, I helped him with his suitcase and wished him well on his adventure back home. I thought about him a lot over the next few days.
Grand Junction is a pretty small time, so I hope I bump into him sometime so I can ask him about all the things he saw and did on his trip.
People like Mr. Mitchell are fading, but the legacies they carry are for a lifetime. In our rush of life, we often skip right by these opportunities – I know I’m guilty of it. I’m just thankful that on that day, my flight had turbulence and I started a conversation with a stranger.
Here’s to you, Mr. Mitchell.