Monday, July 18, 2016

"Gate A-4:" A Tale of the Power of Kindness

Naomi Shihab Nye

Today, I would like to start your week off with something hopeful written by someone else.

In addition to the gloom hanging over the presidential race, this year has thrown one unimaginable tragedy after another at us.

We can be thankful, I suppose, that we are only reading about it, or watching it, instead of experiencing it.

But in a way we are.

An article in Saturday's New York Times looked at what this constant cycle of violent news is doing to us -- images of police shootings, and of police being shot, madmen in France, coups in Turkey -- it never seems to end.

What it is doing to us is creating trauma, even for those who have not experienced it personally.

This is not to say we should stop keeping up with the news, but the constant updates have an impact and perhaps its a good idea to consider that impact when checking your phone again, and again.

My wife and I were discussing the events of recent weeks and it was not a discussion that made for a hopeful outlook.

And then I recalled seeing the short piece I've pasted below on Facebook.

Normally, protocol would dictate I only link to David Kanigan's Live and Learn blog where this was first published, rather than publish the whole thing, but its short and I know many people won't follow through to the link, and I would hate for you to miss this.

Given that I saw it published in total on Facebook, I am going to presume the author won't mind.

As I reminded Karen, "things like this happen ever day. They just don't make the news."

Gate A-4 

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”
We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies— little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts— from her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single traveler declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo— we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.
Then the airline broke out free apple juice and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar too. And I noticed my new best friend— by now we were holding hands— had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate— once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.


  1. This was worth sharing. And you're right ... I would not have followed the link, and would have been poorer for it. jmz

  2. Heart warming and a gentle reminder that there is good in our world.

  3. Heart warming and a gentle reminder that there is good in our world.