I was recently on a flight home when I heard the all too familiar, all too bothersome, less than portentous announcement: “Please turn off your electronic devices to prepare for landing.” Usually, my irrational fears of water landings or impromptu curbside deplaning would cause me to properly stow my iPod beneath the seat and call it a day.
However, Tuesday night was not one of those occasions. As I peacefully hummed along with Rufus Wainwright, I resisted the urge to hold down the pause button but rather cranked up the volume, leaned my head back, and shut my eyes to avoid any vexation from the flight attendant.
As I rested back against the horrifically contaminated, somewhat sticky vinyl seat, I felt a certain sense of contentment. Perhaps it was only the mere three hours of sleep I had the night before. Perhaps it was the ridiculous amount of chocolate peanut butter I had loaded onto my travel sandwich. Or maybe it was just my exhaustion from spending the last fifteen hours on my feet.
Whatever it was, wherever it came from, I realized that at that moment nothing else mattered. That I could rest at ease, listen to the music pulsate through my head, and not worry about what was going to happen. I knew I had done my good for the world that day, that I had made my contribution, and it was enough for then.
I’m not going to deny being Type A. My clothes are organized in order of color, my calendar is meticulously structured, I nominate myself Captain of Everything, I have a thing about matching bras and underwear…
Quite honestly, it’s so rare that I can actually lie back and relax, truly relax and not clutter my mind with other qualms, that I forgot what it felt like.
Earlier that morning, I had set foot in the White House for the first time; later I ate lunch in the U.S. House of Representatives, followed by hours of lobbying and discussions and topped off by watching a speech in the Senate. All the while, I was focused on bettering the world: persuading congresspeople to vote for the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, encourage the development of renewable energy sources, protect the world from Iran, diminish worldwide anti-Semitism, and so much more. Each issue was so important to me, so personally relevant and meaningful to the whole of society, that with each word I spoke to each individual I felt like I was personally bettering the myself, the country, the world.
And we’ll see if anything I said actually made a difference. But in the meantime, I newly awakened to the fact that my life is important, relevant, necessary.
I didn’t keep my iPod on because of a death wish, I had no intention of causing the plane to crash. I didn’t keep listening to Rufus to hear a few more words, as I know every lyric by heart.
I continued listening because my contentment would not let me have any other care in the world than my personal happiness at that moment. I felt so proud that I had helped the world that day, and realized there is no reason I should not feel that way every day of my life. So from now on I vow to live each day of my life to help someone, make something better, improve the world.
And as I leave my computer to go tuck myself into bed (and maybe even catch the last few minutes of Rachel Maddow) I ask myself: what did I do today?
I made someone smile.