Recently I was waiting to board an airplane with Kyle and Mikah in a small airport. We were feeling great, excited to get to warmer weather on a business trip to Arizona. As our row was called, I got up to gather our luggage.
Kyle came up next to me, leaned in and said softly, “I’m pretty sure that’s Christian Nielsen,” as he slightly nodded his head. I looked behind Kyle to see. Kyle started to walk away, and knowing Kyle, I anxiously asked, “You’re not going to talk to him, are you!?” Kyle said, “I don’t know, maybe,” and walked in the direction of Christian.
Suddenly I felt really conflicted. Christian’s wife, Stephanie, was a famous blogger I followed. Christian and Stephanie had lived through a horrific plane crash and had amazing stories. I really, really admired them.
But they also had successful businesses, a New York Times Bestselling book, had appeared on TV and radio, and spoken in front of thousands of people. I could hardly stand the thought of us approaching Christian. I’d never approached someone famous and I didn’t want to start now! What would I say? “I know you from your wife’s blog and I think you’re just awesome.” Ah! How embarrassing!! I didn’t want to be some fame-chaser and seem pathetic to him.
I had a flashback of all the times I’d avoided talking to well-known people. I’d felt exactly like I did now with additional thoughts like, “I’m not smart or successful enough to talk with that person. They talk with amazing people all day long. I don’t want them to just put on a smile and shake my hand because they feel obligated to.”
I also thought of all the times Kyle had struck up a conversation with somebody well-known. He’d be engaging, smiling and chatting away, and I’d be standing next to him, way beyond embarrassed behind my big, silent smile. What was it that stopped me from interacting with “successful” people?” I guess I didn’t want them to confirm what I already felt: that I wasn’t on the same level they were. I wasn’t going to do or say anything in front of them that might prove that was true.
It was time for us to board and Kyle grabbed our bags and scooped up Mikah. I pushed the stroller behind him to the plane ramp. As I folded up the stroller, someone asked, “Do you guys need any help?”
I looked up and to my surprise, Christian Nielsen was standing next to me. How had he noticed us?! I’d tried so hard to keep a low profile, and yet, here he was, talking to me! I’m not one to turn down a helping hand when it’s offered, but I really couldn’t think of anything I needed, so I just said, “I think we’ve got it under control. Thanks so much, that’s really kind of you!” He smiled and nodded, then stepped up the ramp to board the plane.
I finished and got in line, now several people behind Christian. I noticed he was right behind Kyle, and as they waited in line to board, Kyle (of course) struck up a conversation. I saw them talking and smiling and I turned my head to the side to try to disappear.
I really wanted to slip by the few people between us and just say hi to Christian. I wanted to shake his and look in his survivor eyes and feel of his courageous spirit. I wanted to tell him I’d followed Stephanie and his story and that it had changed me, had touched my heart, had given me courage on my own hard days. I wanted to ask him to thank Stephanie for letting her amazing spirit shine through for others, even when her life was so filled with pain.
But I didn’t. My embarrassment of not wanting to appear like a “fame chaser” and possibly come across as annoying stopped me. I didn’t even look up when I saw from the corner of my eye, Christian glance back in my direction (no doubt as Kyle pointed me out to him).
I immediately regretted not looking up, but when I turned my head and looked forward towards Kyle and Christian, they were moving ahead to find their seats. I didn’t see Christian again as we all sat down and got ready to take-off, but I already felt that I’d missed out on something.
I sat down next to Kyle, and after we took off and our baby was asleep, I asked him, “So, what did you say to Christian?” Kyle replied, “Oh, he said that he had offered you help, but that you said you had things under control.
“Then I said to him, ‘Our mother-in-laws are friends!’ and he asked, ‘Who’s your mother-in-law?’ I told him, and Christian said, ‘She’s one of the “family favorites!”‘ From there we just talked a bit.”
I was astounded! How did Kyle think like that?! Of course our mom’s were friends! I’d just been so focused on Christian’s famous personality that I’d forgotten to keep it real.
I’d forgotten that we’re all human with human experiences and that we can always relate to others in some way. Even lives that seem totally opposite in different cultures, economic situations, career positions, religions and societal views are still so very much alike because we’re all human. We all have hearts and minds. We’re all living life.
I thought how silly I’d been to miss out on something I could’ve really enjoyed, to meet someone I’d long respected. Nobody but me had kept me from that experience. I’d held myself back because of my own insecurities.
I didn’t want to think too long about how many other times I’d allowed that to happen. Instead, I decided that I wasn’t going to let fear stop me from letting people into my life, including famous people.
I’m grateful for what I learned that day. I was able to remember that we can relate to everyone we come in contact with. We’re all human. We all have moms and dads (and sometimes our moms are even best friends!). But from there, our rich experiences weave totally unique life stories, and the magic happens when we connect with each other and share our stories.
We have the power to help each other, to lift each other, to propel each other to live our dreams, to inspire each other to make it through tragedy and emerge even stronger on the other side. That’s the magic. We have the power to share in each other’s victories and triumphs. And though it is hard to explain what and how it happens exactly, if you’ve ever experienced it, you know that it’s real. The power of one human spirit connecting with another is incredible.
Sometimes even a brief interaction with someone can make an impact for a lifetime. But we can only empower each other when we open our mouths, if we engage with each other, if we connect. Otherwise, our triumphs and our heartaches are left buried inside us and we live instead with longing, wishing and self-doubt.
I look forward to the next time I can meet Christian Nielsen or some other person I really admire. I don’t know what I’ll say to them exactly, but I intend to be real. I intend to remember that we are both human. I picture myself with hand outstretched and a genuine smile on my face.
I’m not sure where it’ll go from there, but I’ll remember that the magic in life happens – the power that ignites between us to inspire and lift each other- only when we have courage and connect.
Have you every had courage to connect with someone you admire? I’d love to hear about it!