A few weeks ago, when I boarded the plane in Tel Aviv to return home, after an 11-day life-changing journey through Israel, I was bursting with inspiration, gratitude, and hope. As I settled in my seat, I noticed that there was a young family sitting in front of me – a mom, dad, and two young girls, who looked like perhaps they were about two years old and maybe twins. Not long into the flight, I overheard the dad grumbling to his wife about the girls, who were starting to get restless. What started as somewhat quiet complaining soon turned into louder rants, both in English and Hebrew, and even though I couldn’t understand what he was saying in Hebrew, I could feel his anger clearly. He snapped at the girls and his wife repeatedly, and at one point, he stood up and said to his wife in a loud voice, “You are so annoying!”
I could feel all the positivity draining from my body as I took in this upsetting scene, and I felt empathy for the girls, the wife, and even the dad, who clearly was struggling with his anger. I wanted to do something to help; however, it felt like my options were limited. I didn’t know them, and was it really my business to get involved? Somehow, I didn’t think that me saying, “Excuse me, sir; I couldn’t help but notice your frustration. I just had a beautiful experience in Israel with Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, and I have lots of helpful tips on how to bring more light into the world” would go over very well. So, I asked myself, “How can I bring peace to this situation?” I also quietly talked to my friends sitting nearby, and together we decided that if we had the chance, we would smile at the girls and maybe play peek-a-boo with them. Eventually, we were all able to do this, and the girls were delighted and laughing. I also had a chance at one point, when the mom looked back at me, to say to her, “Your girls are so sweet!” I did this because I know how it feels to have your own kids be the ones disturbing the peace. It’s stressful, and it’s embarrassing. For this woman, on top of possibly feeling that, she had also been humiliated by her husband. For me to say that her girls were sweet, I was basically saying, “Don’t worry; you’re not bothering me; it’s ok.” Hopefully that was a relief to her in some small way.
Around the same time, the dad got up to use the restroom, and one of my friends was also in line for the restroom. She had a chance to tell him that his girls were sweet and that she could relate to the challenges of long flights with children as she had taken a few flights from the U.S. to Australia with her kids. She said that he was actually very nice and seemed to appreciate her talking with him.
Later (this was a very long flight!), a young woman sitting in front of the family popped her head up and said, “I babysit for kids a lot, and I would love to watch your girls for a bit so that you can rest.” The parents agreed, and the woman, who spoke both English and Hebrew, took the two girls on a “laps around the plane” adventure. The girls were smiling and giggling along the way as the woman shepherded them through the aisles. Then, she sat with them in the aisle near my seat and did songs and little games with them – all in Hebrew. I didn’t know any of the songs, or even what she was saying, but it looked similar to “This Little Piggy,” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” The girls squealed with delight, and it made me tear up to see this beautiful scene. I looked at the woman and said, “You’re doing beautiful gemilut chasidim (acts of loving kindness).” For while my friends and I had helped a little, this woman really went the extra mile to be kind and to bring peace to the situation.
As we were getting closer to landing, I heard one of the girls, who were at this point sitting with their parents again, start to cry. Hearing this, the dad, in a soothing voice, said, “Don’t worry, Sweetie. We’re almost there.” Then, as if that wasn’t amazing enough, he started singing to them. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this man turned himself around. He was able to do it because he and his family were surrounded by kindness and people who wanted to bring peace to him and his family. I am thankful that it worked.
There are many difficult situations in life that can make us feel powerless and quickly conclude that there is nothing we can do to help. If, however, we ask ourselves, “How can I bring peace to this situation?” we invite creative solutions to come our way. Oftentimes, we may not be able to completely solve something; however, we can still find a way to make things better, even if it’s just a tiny bit.
Of course, there are definitely times that there is not much we can do—that truly the ball is in someone else’s court to change. When this happens, we can know that, in the very least, we tried to think of a solution, and we can pray that the right people will shift gears to create peace.
In the U.S., Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it is a meaningful holiday focused on gratitude and spending quality time with family and friends. For many people, however, Thanksgiving (and really most holidays) can be a time of stress and difficult emotions due to complicated family relationships and/or a variety of hardships. When this happens, asking ourselves, “How can I bring peace to this situation?” softens us and enables us to truly see some better options with how we behave and what we say.
We each have so much power to make situations better or worse; but we often underestimate this power or squander it. Remember your power, and use it for good. Sometimes, oftentimes, you are the person who can bring peace. Remember this, be open to solutions, and spread your light of kindness and peace in any way you can.