When I stepped onto my plane last weekend and learned I was placed at the window seat next to two small children, with the rest of their large, young family in the rows behind us, I was less than excited to say the least. After the emotional goodbye to my friends, home, cat and parents, I wanted nothing more than to go to sleep and make all of the sadness and fear go away for my nine hour flight, and this seemed like it would be nearly impossible with all of the screaming and moving that was already happening with the kids around me.
Unable to fall asleep, I did the next best thing: sob.
I’d shed a few tears at various times during the day during my goodbyes, but this was a good, real cry. The last thing I wanted to do was to be that girl getting emotional on the plane to Europe, because how cliché is that? But I decided to just accept the fact that I’d likely never see the people around me again, these children were probably going to cry at some point on this trip too, and I was moving alone across the world, I think I deserved to emote.
Truthfully, I couldn’t stop thinking about the final words my mom said to me before I left her and my dad. She appeared to be so excited for me, telling me how proud she was that I’d worked so hard to get here and how I’d been dreaming of doing something like this since my middle school teacher inspired me to do so and that I was going to have so much fun. Looking back on it, I’m sure she was being a good mom and holding her emotions in so I didn’t sense her anxiety and sadness, but at the time, I just felt like I was letting her down. At the time, I was terrified.
I’m unsure how much time passed before I calmed down before I felt a tap on my shoulder. The older of the two girls was looking at me and said, “Are you okay?”
What a simple, innocent question. One that likely would only come from an unknowing child, who simply knows that crying means someone is unhappy. I tried my best to smile and nod, and turned my head to look out the window so she wouldn’t see me cry from the emotion her question had just given me.
This young girl didn’t know anything about me, but still chose to attempt to comfort me in the best way she knew how.
Someone was looking out for me. In this moment, it wasn’t my parents or my roommates or my coworkers, it was a stranger that had no reason other than a good heart to say anything at all to me. In this moment, I realized it wasn’t going to stop there over these four months. People look out for people, and I wasn’t going to be alone even if I felt lonely, as cheesy as that sounds.
I attempted to make light conversation with the girls, who I learned were on their way home for school in Serbia, and we looked out for each other for the rest of the long flight. I helped them open their snacks and navigate their in-flight entertainment, and they got my attention when the flight attendant came by with food and drinks.
I got off that plane with a new sense of excitement for what was to come. I wanted to give the girls a hug and wish them luck, but I settled for a smile and a wave as I realized their act of kindness wasn’t an act of kindness to them, it was just doing what they felt they should do.
I’ll never see those girls again, but as I try reach out and make friends as I’m settling into my life here in Copenhagen, I’m keeping them and their kind hearts in mind.