Stranger Meetings - A reminder from the Universe that kindness matters more than anything else.
Photo Cred: Brent Lindeque | Good Things Guy

A reminder that Kindness Matters. Always leave people better than you found them. Hug the hurt. Kiss the broken. Befriend the lost and love the lonely.


Johannesburg, South Africa (10 February 2019) – I am a writer, and I constantly take notes everywhere I go. My iCloud folder can get quite messy, so every now and then, I clear it out.

I was busy doing that this morning when I found this… a note about kindness. Something I had written after a flight last year and somehow completely forgot about, but something worth sharing today.

Kindness matters! Be kind, for we are all facing battles that none of us know anything about.

It was a random Wednesday. Another flight to another city for another big meeting. Just another day really. And it was early which didn’t help my cause. I’m a pretty happy guy but mornings do require coffee.

Strong, black and apparently never enough of it.

I had to check in at the counter and was “obviously” given the middle seat, in the middle of the plane, as I had missed the check-in the night before, thanks to a mixture of presentations, Netflix and family time. Thanks Netflix, now I have to people and fight for the middle armrests, all without having enough coffee.

By the way, the middle seat ALWAYS gets the armrests. Can we all agree?

I digress.

When I eventually got through the boarding gates, up the stairs, onto the plane and close to my seat, I saw a rather large man who would be my window neighbour and a lady dressed in pastels sitting in the aisle seat. I didn’t pay much attention to the man as I wouldn’t have to disturb him to get to my seat but the woman was clutching a book about gardening or something.

She must have been in her late forties, hardly any make-up on but pretty.

She stood up, I scuffled around her, sat down and we got ready to fly.

She was focused on a page in her book about planting a “bare-root rose” and dealing with fallen leaves. Her head pointed down causing her hair to cover her off from the world. It made her look anxious.

“Yeah, I hate flying too”, was my first thought.

The take-off was a series of misfortunate events, someone was apparently claustrophobic and needed to exit the plane. We were just about to taxi when she stood up and requested (very loudly) to leave. We had to wait for permission, and then for the doors to be opened, and then for her to leave.

I get it, flying is not for everyone but her demonstration left us all feeling like we were in Final Destination part eleven. Not ideal.

The cabin was heating up and the tension could be felt. I reached up to try to fiddle with my air to get it to work but only succeeded in opening up the conversation with the horticulturist aisle lady.

“Is it working? It’s so hot in here,” she asked.

“No, it looks like it will only work with the engines on,” I replied.

“How fast do these things go? Do you think we’ll make up the time in the air? Is that possible?” she asked.

“Yeah, if we catch a good wind we might be able to… do you have a meeting you’re trying to get to?”

“Kinda, just meeting my sister. She’s coming from Cape Town.”

It seemed that I had started a real conversation with a complete stranger, even with my lack of coffee and caring, but I had opened up the floodgates and was literally stuck in the middle seat with nowhere else to go.

So I begrudgingly carried on with the “chat”.

“Oh how awesome. Long weekend holiday?” I asked.

“No. My… my brother had a heart attack last night. No. The night before. And we’re going to his farm to be with his son.

He is so fit.

He was so fit.

It’s such a shock.

I had never been to his farm. He invited us but I had never been. Now we’re going down to be with his son.”

Suddenly, I felt a lump in my throat, and my eyes started to well up.

I had completely misread this situation.

This kind-hearted woman that I was trying to avoid was not afraid of flying… she was afraid of landing. And having to deal with whatever was waiting for her on the other side.

And I was blaming my bad mood on coffee?!?

She kept staring at the “bare-root rose” planting page. I could see her eyes scattering to try to find clarity in her thoughts.

I took her hand and told her I was so sorry. I told her that I was so incredibly sorry for her loss and her pain, but in my head, I was also apologising because I had not seen it in her eyes because I was so focused on myself and my coffee (or lack thereof).

We spent the rest of the flight speaking about her brother, she retold stories of her childhood and painted a beautiful picture of who I can only believe was an incredible human. She made me smile, laugh, and even cry.

At one point, she also told me she was thankful to be sitting next to me as she needed to talk to someone before she landed.

When the air steward came around, she even offered to buy me a coffee.

Her words: “You looked like you needed one when you got on the flight.”

I giggled when she said that.

I never got her name, and I’m not sure I’ll ever see her again, but that flight and that moment was a tragically beautiful reminder that everyone is facing a battle we know nothing about. And that kindness matters.

That moment was a nudge from the universe to remind me that sometimes when we open ourselves up and step outside of our comfort zones. We are all human and we are all “in this ” together. We’re able to share immeasurable kindness. And we should.

Always leave people better than you found them. Hug the hurt. Kiss the broken. Befriend the lost and love the lonely.

Thank you kind “bare-root rose” planting lady. I hope you are still reliving beautiful memories of your brother.

And more than anything, I hope you are okay.

I really hope you are.

Okay. Love you. Bye.

Sources: Good Things Guy | Brent Lindeque | Kindness Matters 
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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