I was about to board yet another form of transportation at the El Prat Barcelona airport, one of dozens in the last 10 days, and the exhaustion hit me like a wave as I contemplated just how many planes, trains and automobiles I had been a passenger on lately. This was not a time for added taxation, and yet here it came, literally andmetaphorically. A gate agent was asking me if I was “speedy boarding.” ‘What? Um, yes? I would like to board speedily?’ Not what they meant. Apparently, “speedy boarding” on Easyjet is something you can avail of when you book the ticket by paying a bit extra -something like 10 British pounds- to sit in the first 5 rows and board more quickly with two pieces of carry-on luggage instead of one. I was in row 7, just two rows shy of the 2-bag-privilegepromised land, and I had one small carry-on suitcase and a weekender bag for my laptop. This necessitated checking the offending second bag and paying a fee. 55 Euro to be exact, the equivalent of about $61. First of all, I had no prior awareness of this “speedy boarding” business. Second, I had been especially proud of my streamlined packing efforts on this 2-week European odyssey. Everything fit neatly into a compact carry-on suitcase and a small weekender, eliciting reactions of shock and admiration from all of my family and friends along the way-like, “Pax, you fit everything in there?!” pointing to the hobbit-size pieces of luggage that were supposed to get me through two weeks of variable weather and varying situations in Europe. Everyone who knows me well knows I love to express myself through style, and find great joy and flourishing in putting outfits together. I would nod and smile, feeling so free and unencumbered, empowered by my ability to craft stylish outfits and sensible dressing patterns even with limited wardrobe (think trainers when a workout came up, a hat when the sun beamed down harder than sunglasses could protect, sexy wedge heels and a Cavalli dress for a night out on the town). And now this guy was raining on my streamlined parade, telling me that basically, my teeny carry-on was not teeny enough since it wasn’t non-existent, and I would need to check it in. I felt the irritation creep up; the last 3 days in Ibiza had left my sleep short-changed, my seratonin levels depleted, and my energy waning fast. It takes a huge amount of energy capital to execute travel in foreign countries, what with the language barriers, unknown terrains and need to be fully engaged when you get there to glean the most from the experience. All good until it’s time to leave, and you get to the airport craving rest only to be met with a new challenge. An affront to the senses and your sensible packing. I was not happy, and said as much to the gate agent, a handsome Spaniard with searing blue eyes who commiserated that he didn’t make the rules and was compelled to enforce the bag policy. He looked apologetic if not amused, with a “don’t-hate-the-player-hate-the-game” shrug of the shoulders. After forking over my credit card with disdain, I flashed quickly to the memory of my recent flight to Amsterdam, where I had unknowingly paid extra when booking my last-minute ticket to be in the first 5 rows and had taken only my weekender bag. Why was there no “bag credit” for saving one then, so I could use it now? Where was the justice in the world??
His last words to me, after I had signed for the bag and taken the claim ticket, were, “have a nice flight.” I didn’t reply, giving him only an expressive mixture of slight disgust and attitude, lips pursed and incredulous, like, “after what you just put me through, ‘have a nice flight’seems like a disingenuous formality.’ They made me wait until almost the end of boarding to get on the plane, adding insult to injury, and by the time I plopped into my seat, my energy levels were tanking and I accidentally knocked the gentleman in the middle seat with my one allowed carry-on. Through my exhaustion, I managed a meek apology, to which he replied, “it’s no problem at all.” I could see it wasn’t; his smile was kind and patient, his sentiment genuine. It stood in direct contrast to my most recent interaction with the gate agent / carry-on police, where I had left unsmiling and unkind. I instantly felt my fall from grace, hyper-aware of how we’re constantly met with scenarios and choices, our spiritual evolution a result of how we engage with and react to each of these situations. Gratitude and the ensuing grace are all about flowing with situations as life presents them to you with an attitude of constant appreciation and positive perspective. The whole key is to see the good even in situations where it feels completely elusive, like the aforementioned bag issue. Or rather, have fundamental and abiding faith in the larger good, even if you can’t see it right away. Over the course of the 2-hour flight back to London, the good became divinely apparent, as I conversed with the super handsome Polish man sitting next to me. I told him as much, as I realized the immediate and easy flow that existed between us. It floored me to realize how completely resonant our spiritual energies were. I don’t say this in any kind of male-female sexual sense, rather in the way that someone comes into your life so pure and fast, just a flash of an interchange that leaves you instantly comforted, altered, elevated. I scarcely know where I found the energy to talk about matters of the heart, mind and soul for two hours when I barely had enough to stand moments before, but it all came from a higher, deeper place. He asked me many questions about my work, my aspirations, my experiences and my family. We talked about the coolest places we had visited, yoga, martial arts and meditation (he expressed his frustrations with it and I guided him through a practice right there on the plane). We delved into our belief in past lives, I gave him book suggestions, and he gave me an ultimatum: “go get your destiny.” I had described my ultimate goal to him early on in the conversation: that is, to effect mass positive change on the planet through my media work, and convinced him I was “trying.” He said,“no more trying, just go out there and do it.” He was the voice of God, if God is the abiding and unwavering voice inside all of us that leads us to our true purpose and deepest sense of humanity, compassion and kindness. And I felt the purity and power of his goading. As the plane coasted to the ground, came to a stop, and the doors opened bringing our journey to an end, we parted ways. I shouted one final promise to live my purpose, he promised he’d meditate at least twice a week. I was swallowed up by the deplaning crowd, and floated toward the baggage claim, feeling so humbled by the gift of interaction I had just been given. Had I been in one of the first 5 rows, clear for 2 bags and on board more quickly, I would never have shared the company of this beautiful energetic force. The 55 Euro investment was the reason it all became a story, the reason I was impacted enough to actually write about it later. It was all a gift I had been so quick to rebuff just because it came with an unexpected monetary cost. Would $61 seem a lot to sit down with an angel? I think not. Why do we need to see literal value before we can believe in its worthiness? That’s what faith is all about and we are too quick to let it waver. I understood it all fairly soon after sitting down next to my angel in row 7, and I was humbled and proud to “get it,” in spite of my initial lack of grace. With self-forgiveness, compassion, gratitude and love in my heart, I stepped onto the moving walkway toward the customs hall. And in this space of grace, I immediately noticed something glimmer underfoot, glinting gold against a picture of something holy. I knew it was for me as I bent down to pick it up, goosebumps spreading across my skin when I realized what it was: a picture of Saint Christopher carrying a small child on his shoulder and a gold pendant engraved with the same image, both in a protective plastic cover. There was also a five-petal sticky note attached to the plastic cover, with the handwritten words:
“Love you Angel,
on it (depicted in the middle of the travel documents in the attached picture). The following prayer was written on the back of the picture:
The Motorist’s Prayer
Grant me O Lord a steady hand and watchful eye.
That no one shall be hurt as I pass by.
Thou gavest life, I pray no act of mine
May take away or mar that gift of Thine.
Shelter those, dear Lord, who bear me company,
From the evils of fire and all calamity.
Teach me to use my car for others need;
Nor miss through love of undue speed
The beauty of the world; that thus I may
With joy and courtesy go on my way.
St. Christopher, holy patron of travellers,
Protect me and lead me safely to my destiny.
The whole prayer spoke to me in the midst of so much travel, the handwritten note feeling so personal, but that last sentence flowed through me like a convergence of magical forces, undeniable and forceful. “Protect me and lead me safely to my destiny.” My angel on the plane had urged me to do exactly this, and here was a Divine thunderclap reinforcement of the same. Awe-struck and dazed, I made my way to the next train, no less tired but completely renewed, and found my way back to London and the embrace of my niece who was at home in her flat waiting for me. I fell onto the couch and reveled in the immediacy of what had struck me so clear the last couple of hours: grace is waiting around every corner, if we can just have the faith to perceive and receive it.