87. I will forever have this number imprinted on my heart and in my mind. I believe that sometimes the stars align in life and we cross paths with people who leave an imprint on our hearts and souls. I had the privilege of meeting one of those special people yesterday on a flight to New Orleans. In all honesty, I was worn out having just traveled to a meeting in San Diego last week and was less than excited about getting on another plane. I was traveling to a meeting in New Orleans to talk on the importance of Positive Thinking yet I found myself feeling a bit sorry for myself. How ironic is that? Regardless of my mood, I was about to find out that just one person can change a life and can shift perspective in a matter of minutes and on a flight.
As it turns out I was the last person to board the plane and I was excited to find out I had been upgraded to seat 2B. It was about to be my lucky day in more ways than one. I boarded the plane and before I sat down, the gentleman in 2A greeted me with a genuine and positive “hello and how is your day going so far”? I, of course, responded and said hello back as I sat down looking forward to having a coke, losing myself in a new book I had bought and eventually falling asleep for some much needed rest. Life did not have the same plans for me and I had no idea that I had just met a man that would inspire me, teach me and become a new friend.
Paul in 2A was friendly, warm and seemed genuinely interested in my life. Our conversations were engaging and I soon found myself chatting back. When I told him I was going to do a presentation on positive thinking he was inspired and asked for my card wanting to spread the word to other groups. He said he knew of a lot of companies and groups that would benefit from a talk on positive thinking. Wouldn’t we all? I was once again reminded that you never know who you will meet or how one person might be able to help you in pursuing a dream. This, however, was just one of many gifts during the 2 hour flight.
Paul talked about his job as a consultant, his wife of 47 years and his family but what really grabbed my attention was when he shared what they had been doing for the past 35 plus years. Paul and his wife had given their hearts, their love, their home and selfless care to children in need. They had opened their arms to 87 foster kids of all ages. 87…I was blown away.
I was so touched and so in awe of this gentle soul and listened to every word. Paul told many stories about so many children. My heart was bursting as I absorbed everything he had to share.
- phone calls at all hours and providing emergency care to children in urgent need of love, warmth and safety
- baths, checking for lice and warm pajamas for these innocent souls tucking them into safe warm beds
- trauma that I could not comprehend including burns, puncture wounds, black eyes and abuse
- meth babies crying uncontrollably for 36 hours straight, sleeping for 20 and then starting the cycle all over again
- the heartbreak of having to send kids back to their homes or the state and some children who didn’t survive at all
- shopping for sales and stocking up on clothing of all sizes, shoes and pajamas
- one little boy that wanted his new shoes to sit on the edge of the bath tub because he was afraid someone would steal them and then asked if he could wear them to bed
- treating kids equally to their own including ALL of the kids receiving new easter clothes or christmas gifts
- creating 87 “life books” with pictures and memories for every child that stayed with them and regardless of how long
Honestly, I could write an endless list of the many wonderful things Paul and his wife did for these precious kids including adopting two as their own. I had fallen in love right there in seat 2B. I had fallen in love with this family. I had fallen in love with their enormous hearts, the gift of service and their infinite love for 87 innocent souls. Paul and his wife gave these kids a chance and stepped up during a time of need and their own children did the same. Children were saved and some survived because of two selfless people who did nothing but love them.
In truth, I did not want the flight to end. I was amazed at everything this family had done and for so many. I had learned so much and through Paul I was reminded that despite all of the tough stuff in this world and the tragedy we are so often immersed in, there is still so much good. There are good people. There is so much to be thankful for. There are so many things that each and every one of us can do to make a difference out there.
Paul reminded me that regardless of how tough our lives might seem there are so many in need and that have it so much worse. Talk about a wake up call that I sometimes fall into that very big pothole of taking things for granted and do not always appreciate what I have. I felt small and weak at times as I recognized I often spend too much energy on what is NOT important and long for things that I DO NOT NEED.
My wonderful new friend in 2A was a warrior in wisdom and in the end, it is so true that it is LOVE that matters. We all need to feel loved and to feel like we matter. If we would all dedicate time to helping others and volunteering just one hour a week it could make such a difference to so many. I felt connected to Paul and while our time on the flight was short, I left that plane feeling like I had known him, his wife and his family my entire life. I somehow believe we will be lifelong friends. And to think that he thanked me and said I had inspired him? No. I was thankful and learned more from one man than I could ever have imagined or hoped for.
I am writing tonight because I want to share and spread Paul and his wife’s message of love and wisdom with the world. I want people to remember and believe that there is good in this world. There are wonderful people out there and so many things to be grateful for. Look for the good. Appreciate the little things. Search for those life lessons that teach us so much. Open your heart and embrace opportunities to help others and truly make a difference in the world. Love with all of who you are and never stop opening your heart to others in need. Be patient and be kind. It costs nothing.
Paul…thank you for blessing me with the number 87. I will forever remember that number and I will wear it in my heart and on my sleeve as a reminder of how much I can do to help others. I will carry it with me remembering to appreciate all that I have and to love hard wherever I go. You inspired me and I am blessed to have met a new, selfless friend and look forward to hopefully meeting your amazing and beautiful wife.
In Peace and to all of my dear friends reading this…go out and make a difference. The world needs ALL of us.