The most successful people I know are also the most grateful.
They feel gratitude for the big things in their lives – like opportunities, mentors, accomplishments – as well as the seemingly more mundane things – like breathing, being, loving.
Back in April, 2009, I met such a person on an airplane, and I wrote this:
I met Faith on an airplane.
She settled in next to me and when I introduced myself and held out my hand, she took it saying, “Wow, that’s so polite. I’m Faith.”
For those of you who have always wondered, how did Faith look? Like a walking goddess – you know, like JLo, without the attitude.
Now I could go all allegorical on you and imagine some deep and meaningful conversation with Faith…
But I really did meet Faith. And she’s a PhD candidate at Northwestern University in Chicago. Young and vibrant, Faith turned out to be wise beyond her years. And we had a surprisingly deep and meaningful conversation on our hour plus some flight from Chicago to DC the other day.
I walked away from meeting Faith with more faith, and that’s what I want to tell you about.
Faith comes from a family that didn’t have many things, and couldn’t provide Faith with many opportunities. But a great one fell in her lap when she was 14 – she got assigned a Big Sister.
This Big Sister inspired Faith, coached Faith, believed in Faith.
So Faith decided to try getting into a college, something that no one in her family had ever done.
And she got in.
And kept going.
And now Faith is a PhD candidate who hopes to use her training to help the community she came from.
She’s got vision, she’s got direction, and she’s got hope.
Our conversation was so powerful that I noticed the people across the aisle straining to catch our chat. What did we discuss? We talked about fears, and redefining oneself. We talked about what it’s like to be highly educated in a family made up of people who are not. We talked about how relationships work and how they fall apart. We talked about what women need to do to preserve their identities and their options while in relationships. We talked about books that have been important to our lives, and meaningful quotes. We talked about the past and we talked about the future. We talked about what we believe about the world. We talked about faith.
The plane touched down and we left each other with a smile and a wave. And as Faith walked away, down the airport hallway toward whatever’s next for her, I said a little prayer of thanksgiving. Thanks to that Big Sister who reached a hand out to a promising young girl, and thanks to all the other hands that have helped her along the way. Thanks to Faith who could have made other choices about the direction of her life but hasn’t. And thanks to Providence for placing us side-by-side on that airplane.
Because I walked away from my meeting with Faith renewed, restored and hopeful. Meeting Faith helped me remember that people touch people in the most unexpected and important ways. That people, by and large, are good and generous. That strangers are simply friends I haven’t met yet.
Yes, I met Faith on an airplane. Where I least expected her. Which just might be the most important lesson of all.
If you feel a gratitude gap in your own life, tune in to the WiseWork radio show this week, where my guest is the inspiring and wise Hiro Boga. Take 30 minutes, and reconnect with what just might be the best part of you – your Faith-like faith, and gratitude.