My son recently turned 19, and I feel that parenting him and my daughter has been the ultimate journey in learning to love, practice patience, and what I find the hardest: surrender.
Surrendering is easier said than done; at least for me, this is the case. It’s something I find myself working on and thinking about more lately, both in my personal life and as a parent.
I experienced the beauty of this practice recently when I was traveling and I had an unlikely encounter with a stranger, my Lyft driver.
I am an anxious traveler, especially when I travel alone. My flight was leaving at 6:45 in the morning from San Diego, heading back home to Detroit. I did everything a prepared traveler needs to do to ensure I arrived at the airport on time. To quell my anxiety, I over-prepare and plan out every detail to prevent any hiccups from happening.
I was anxious because I was eager to get home by a specific time. I scheduled my Lyft to arrive at 4:00. But they were running late. At 4:45, the driver canceled, and the next Lyft wouldn’t come for 25 minutes. I felt ill. I could feel my heart race, my internal temperature increase, and my breathing quicken. I crunched the numbers in my head and knew I would cut it close.
And then, another notification came through, and an additional 10 minutes were added to the arrival time, and I was assigned a new driver. No math magic would give me any sense of calm at this point. I knew I was hanging on by a thread, and the likelihood of making this flight was slim to none.
My driver arrived, and I contemplated all the different things I could ask him so he could take the fastest route or make some miracle happen. Should I make up an urgent reason why I had to get home? Should I tell him someone was sick and maybe he would feel compelled to drive faster? I was desperate. Gary, my driver, greeted me, and I quickly rambled off about how late I was running and how afraid I was of missing this flight because I needed to get home.
Gary is 73 years old, and there was something angelic and kind about him. I saw this when I finally stopped talking, and he took a breath and said, “You’re going to be all right, let’s get you to that airport.”
Though I’ve set my Lyft preferences to “quiet ride,” Gary started to talk to me. Every cell in my body was so stressed that I thought, oh no, please don’t talk to me. There is no way I can focus right now.
But, he was calm and thoughtful about what he shared. He was wise and could tell stories beautifully. I was immediately entranced and found myself sinking into my seat, feeling my body start to let go and relax. There was a calm steady rhythm to the way he spoke, that immediately put me at ease. It felt like Gary was from another era or time in history. He wore glasses, a button-down polo with matching black trousers. He was relaxed and he had a slight southern accent.
He started to tell me about his wife. He called her his best friend and talked about how wonderful she was. He described their relationship with a boylike charm with complete admiration for her. He told me that after 28 years of marriage, she passed away.
Gary’s story continued. He told me that ten years after she passed, he met another woman to whom he is now engaged. He described their first date and sounded like a child talking about his first love. He told me how nervous he had been to ask her out on a date, but he was determined. He described himself as a gentleman through and through, and when he asked her to go to a movie she finally said yes. He told me his heart was racing so fast he didn’t know what to do.
Gary went on to tell me about his mother and brother, who both recently passed away. He talked about how powerful God has been in his life, saving him from going down dark roads. He spoke about his brother, who suffered from addiction, and how he realized there was nothing more he could do for him. He described how close they were and how he learned to make peace with his passing.
Gary told me one story after another, illuminating parts of his life with humor and kindness. He was open and vulnerable, and you could tell he had lived through many rich experiences in his 73 years. He told me he had to stop going to school in the 6th grade, but he was determined to be the most intelligent guy despite his lack of formal education—never saying no to a challenge and having complete faith that he could solve any problem.
I was captivated by his stories. So much so that I completely stopped looking at my watch or checking the navigation system to see how far we were.
And then he said, “Young lady, we’re 5 minutes away from the airport.” I realized how special the last 40 minutes with Gary had been. Complete calm and serenity had taken over my body and mind, and I could not stop smiling while enveloped in his stories and the way he told them.
As we approached the airport, he got quiet. We arrived at the Delta terminal, and I had 35 minutes to clear security and get to my flight. A tall order to say the least, but I didn’t care. At that point, it didn’t matter what happened because I realized I was never in control. I know I was meant to meet Gary and hear the stories he was sharing at that exact moment in time.
He reminded me of life’s bigger moments and how we never know what’s next. The 40 minutes in his silver Nissan Altima felt like time had frozen—a message from the universe reminding me to succumb to the present moment and let go. We can get so wrapped up in our planning and doing that we miss the good stuff. The moments that we can’t plan for. The surprising encounters we have with others and the lessons we can learn.
He pulled up to the airport entrance and put the car in park. He turned to me and said, “Young lady, I’m going to pray for you, but I know you’re going to be ok. And, you’re going to make that flight home.”
I thanked him, hoping he knew I was thankful for so much more than just the ride to the airport. He gave me a gift. He showed me the magic of surrender.
I ran into the airport and was met with the longest security line I had ever seen. I knew there was no way I was going to make my flight. I took a deep breath, surrendered, and was at complete peace.
I headed toward the line, and an airport security officer asked me, “Are you in the right line?” I said, “Yes, but it doesn’t matter, I’m probably going to miss my flight anyways.” With concern in his eyes, he asked me what time my flight was. And then he said, “Come with me.” He walked me to the front of the line and said, “You can go next.”
I thanked him. But I was thanking him too for so much more than getting me to the front of the line. He reminded me of the kindness in others. The generosity that’s given every single day that we usually miss. I was thankful that he took the time to ask me about the line I was in and that he cared. I was grateful for the help that he did not need to give. I was thankful for his humanity.
As Gary predicted, I got on my flight. I got on that flight not because of my overzealous planning but because of the kindness of strangers. When I reached the gate and saw the door to the jetway was still open, I closed my eyes and smiled, not because I had made the flight but because of the magical morning I just experienced.
There are beautiful moments happening all around us. We have a choice to see what we want and to make ourselves available for the lessons the universe is trying to show us. I could have stayed agitated and stressed that morning, but look what I would have missed. I was shown the beauty that comes when we surrender. When you completely let go, as I did that morning, you gain something even better, eternal peace.