Will the music really go on forever?

“Could we sit next to you? The old lady next to us wants to sleep and we thought we might change seats. Only if you don’t mind of course.”

This is how I was woken up nearly 4 hours into my flight to New York. And as my vision cleared, I noticed the young Palestinian couple in the row next to me. The man had a kind face with hazel eyes and spoke perfect English. Besides him, was his wife wearing a green hijab and dress dotted with pearls. She didn’t speak at all but kept looking at me intently.

I didn’t give it a second thought and replied, “Yeah. Sure. Don’t worry about it.” After all, when we encounter kindness, the least we can do is embrace it.

Spending 14 hours on a flight squeezed up next to two humans is always a revealing experience. It’s just enough time to get a sense of who they are especially going by how they treat each other. And in this case, all I was left with was warmth and a certain playfulness that took the edge off of life.

I noticed this when they argued. The first time, when we were going through turbulence and she asked me to wake him up to make sure he had his safety belt on. And the second time, when she wanted him to fill up the immigration form as the plane began its descent. Both times he was visibly irritated and said something in Arabic which upset her. But when he heard her say she was nervous about her first time in the US, something immediately changed in him. The tone and pitch of his voice grew kinder. He leaned in and kept looking at her reassuringly so she knew she wasn’t alone. He called her his 7obbi and daloo3a (my love) and I could see her melt. All that anger, irritation and fear immediately gave way to something deeper and more permanent: love. And she knew she would be fine with him by his side.

I had just seen the dance of love and life. They were in sync and had made it look effortless. But what it really meant was that they had already put in the work. This is what you do when you want a love that lasts, you ground it in respect.