Long ago, in the days before the internet, I was a timid freshman at Vassar College. Vassar is located in Poughkeepsie, New York, about an hour and a half north of New York City. Though there is a small airport in a town near Vassar, it was significantly cheaper to find your way to NYC and fly in and out of there.
There was a shuttle between Poughkeepsie and the NYC airports that was convenient and fairly inexpensive, and it was popular with the Vassar students, so I used that to get the airport when I flew home to Utah for Christmas. I, of course, planned to repeat the route to get back to campus when I returned after Christmas, but was thwarted after landing in NYC when I found that the shuttle company had gone out of business.
Insert panic and general freaking out here.
I had no idea how to get from the airport to campus without that shuttle since I’d made no other plans (and in the pre-internet world, I couldn’t just whip out an iPhone and look it up), so I went to the Ground Transportation desk and sought assistance. The lady at the desk told me which bus to take from the airport to Grand Central Station, and then which bus to take from there that would deposit me at the campus entrance. Thank heavens.
As I waited for the first bus outside the airport, there were a handful of other people waiting patiently for the bus, but one caught my attention. I didn’t recognize her, and yet I had the strongest impression that she was a fellow Vassar student. It’s possible I’d seen her on campus (it’s a small school), but still, one 18- to 22-year-old college-age young adult looks pretty much like any other. She could have been going anywhere. But that impression wouldn’t leave.
Unfortunately, I was deathly shy at the time, and approaching her was about equally as terrifying as the unknown path I was embarking upon to get back to campus. It took a couple minutes, but I finally got up the courage to go up to her and say, “Hi. Do you by any chance go to Vassar?” Her face lit up. She did! We glommed onto one another, both relieved to have another person on the same journey. She was in the same predicament as me (sudden change in plans due to the demise of the shuttle), and though we each had the same information and thus were basically equally clueless, the stress levels for each of us plummeted simply by the fact that we were now not alone as we figured out how to get back to campus (I know she felt the same way because, well, we each said so). As an added bonus for me, when we got to the campus entrance, she flirted shamelessly with the security guard at the gate to get him to call one of the campus security cars to drive us to our respective dorms.
This was not the start of a lifelong friendship or anything like that. I saw her only one other time that entire next semester, and we each waved hello. That was it. Having a travel companion for an uncertain journey was just a small thing. (Yes, I too can’t help but think of the phrase “the tender mercies of the Lord”, but I’m trying to avoid it because it seems like a cliché at this point, even though I really like that talk and the concept.) Each of us would likely have found our way back to campus alone (thank you, kind lady at the ground transportation desk), but having a companion made all the difference in the world in that moment. I really do believe it was the Spirit that told me she was a fellow student, knowing that would ease my anxiety if only I would approach her. Thankfully, I did.
Sometimes the small things are everything.