3 December 2012 Originally posted on Facebook.
On my hands and knees on the floor of the airplane yesterday, searching for an old lady’s missing hearing aid during the flight from Sydney to Atlanta, it occurred to me that this may not be the most dignified posture for a nun.
I had seen the old lady from the seat in front of me as she tottered back & forth up and down the aisle with a flashlight. I asked a few times what was wrong, but she didn’t answer at first — she couldn’t hear me. The lady spoke with a thick eastern European accent, wearing a vintage plaid tweed woolen coat.
Do you know what hearing aids cost? Thousands, especially for the new tiny hidden-in-the ear type that she described. And it takes a long time to get an appointment to get a new one made, and can take many visits to get the thing adjusted just right.
Therefore my dignity wasn’t as important to me as finding that hearing aid. But how does one find a tiny black object in a shadowy jet cabin? The lady wasn’t even sure where or when she had lost it.
At one point, a couple of flight attendants did a cursory search around the lady’s seat; I wasn’t impressed. “Needle in a haystack” one said with a shrug. They left suggesting that the seat from her previous flight should be searched. My own flashlight turned up all kinds of small objects, bits of plastic, broken pieces of earbud headphones, and once I required the passenger at the window of her row to grope deep under his seat for what my flashlight had indicated would surely be the missing device but turned out to be a hardened raisin. The old lady said that she gives up. Yet I just couldn’t do that.
After we landed in Los Angeles, as countless passengers from behind us streamed past, I insisted that the lady move from her seat while she waited for the airport wheelchair, and I got into a real down & dirty search among the dust and crumbs in all the crevices of her seat and on the floor. And lo and behold, a little peanut-sized shiny black object with a tiny white antenna on one end caught the light of my flashlight in a crevice of the floor near the right side of her seat. What a rush. “I found it!”
The old lady was equal parts astonishment and gratitude. Later, when she was wheeled past me as I stood in line at US Customs, she paused to thank me and said that she hasn’t words with which to express her thanks. I said just send some prayers for me.
Oh I’ll remember this one for a long time. (This thumbnail photo shows the type of hearing aid.)
Something else from that flight felt really good. At breakfast time an hour or so before landing in Los Angeles on Sunday morning (9 am LA time), I puzzled over which of the free breakfast options to request. I couldn’t decide; they all sounded equally good yet also mildly repulsive at that time, which my body perceived to be 2 am (Sydney time).
So I asked the stewardess to give me whatever was the LEAST popular breakfast option, so that another passenger would be more likely to get whatever he or she wants. She exclaimed “That is so nice of you!” The strength of her surprise and appreciation enveloped me. Then she answered that thus far in our cabin the fewest people wanted the pancakes, “even though they smell so good.” After she pointed it out, I realized that indeed a delicious smell of pancakes was wafting through the cabin — and the aroma then gave me enough appetite to be able to eat at all. In fact the pancakes and accompanying items were delicious, the best airline food I’ve ever had. I received the meal reverently, delighted to gain true dana on an airplane. Aside from a snack on the next flight and some chocolate I didn’t eat again until today, but felt no hunger. That happy little meal sustained me well on my journey.
Oh, by the way, thank you all who asked: Yes I did make it home safely from Australia. My mother & I had a sweet reunion on my arrival last night. I’m sorry to have been away during her 85th birthday celebration, but Mom seems the same as when I left back in February, and I’m so glad I took the chance and went to Australia. It’s a great country with admirable people who influenced me in positive ways. I’m especially grateful to the people associated with Santi Forest Monastery. Keep an eye on Santi; I expect that community to grow beautifully under Ayya Phalanyani’s guidance.