Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Facebook Friend

After publicly griping on Facebook about Seattle’s below normal June temperatures, I am now embarrassed by the whiney entry I posted. Here is what one of my Facebook friends, Sobia from Pakistan, wrote to me today:
“Its very hot burning summer in Pakistan but its cool to read about your June with jackets and warm stuff.....oh my God you are blessed people.”
I met Sobia two-and-a-half years ago when we sat next to each other on an airplane flying from JFK to Seattle. Hubby and I were returning home from Egypt. As is our custom on long flights, he and I were sitting across the aisle from each other. Because I was coming down with what I thought was a cold (it turned into something closer to influenza), I was trying very hard to keep my germs to myself and not breath on anyone, particularly the young woman sitting next to me who appeared to be traveling alone. But about an hour before we landed in Seattle, she showed me the document I’d noticed her repeatedly reading during our flight.

It was a letter from Horizon Air. In it, the correspondent wrote that even though it was against company policy to do so, a ticket would be held in her name for a flight to Pullman. I can’t remember why it was against policy—if it was unpaid, or reserved too far ahead, or paid in foreign currency—but that’s immaterial. The letter stated that if she did not appear at the ticket desk in Seattle by such-and-such date, the ticket would expire. The referenced date was the very day we were flying! Sobia was understandably concerned that she would arrive at the ticket desk to find there was no ticket. She told me she had a position with Washington State University for post-graduate research in immunology.

Compounding her anxiety was her fatigue and her discomfort with flying. This was her first airplane trip. She had been underway from Pakistan for thirty-six hours . . . flying from Islamabad to London to New York to Seattle before reaching her final destination of Pullman.

When I realized how worried she was, I offered to help her. As soon as our plane landed, Hubby and I escorted her to Horizon Air, assisted her with her luggage, and found an elevator when we realized she was uneasy with escalators and moving sidewalks. I looked after Hubby’s and my luggage while he stood in line with her at the counter to make certain there was a ticket waiting. Yes! She had a long layover before leaving for Pullman that afternoon, but the desk attendant at Horizon assured Hubby she was in good hands.

Within a few days, Hubby and I received such a loving and gracious thank you from her via email, I cried.

She and I have communicated only occasionally since, but always with delight on my part. We are “friends” on Facebook, as I mentioned, and if anyone wants to bash Facebook for whatever reason, don’t do it within my earshot. Sobia’s status as “my friend” minimizes for me any downside to Facebook. Social networking is the stuff that peace and understanding is made of, isn’t it? How rare and dear it is to have contact with others across town or continents, across ideologies and politics.

Hearing from Sobia today about the dreadful heat she is experiencing gave me pause to realize how self-centered my comment was. I could feel grace settling over me like a lacy mantilla. What a lovely gift from halfway around the world. Yes, Sobia, we are blessed. Thank you for the reminder.


Ginny NiCarthy said...

So, Sallie, after that testimonial I may have to give Facebook one more chance to enrich my life. Thanks for the upbeat, moving story. Lucky you. And how lucky your Pakistani "friend" was to have met you at just the right time and place and with just the right attitude.

Andrea said...
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Andrea said...

It's easy for me to bash Facebook ("I hate Facebook!" is my constant mantra anytime I go on it to do even the simplest uploads, etc...), but reading your post reminds me of the possibilities of, and perhaps inspirations for, social networking sites. Nice piece!

fortymama said...

It's funny that you should post this. I recently decided to "try again" w/ FB. (We have a very "on again- off again" relationship.) I love connecting with old & new friends, but I'm not sure about having co-workers & family & old highschool friends & current friends & neighbors all be together in the same place, where they all can hear what you say. Sometimes the worlds shouldn't collide. But you are inspiring me to keep giving FB another chance. It's great when you have experiences like you had.