The Little Things

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.

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About Tanya Spackman

Tanya was born in Provo, Utah, on a warm July day. After escaping childhood with nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises (except for 5 stitches - oh, and that incident with the staple in the thumb), she graduated from BYU with a degree in molecular biology. Before graduation, she served a mission in Chicago. As graduation neared, she decided lab work really wasn't her thing, and she had no interest in research or teaching (but really, molecular biology is interesting), so she decided to attempt the world of technical writing. Thus, she now works as a technical writer/editor for the Navy in Washington, DC. She loves to read and travel.

10 thoughts on “The Little Things

  1. Tanya, you are such a great writer. Thanks for this.

    When I was in college (back before telephones were invented) I used to fly into New York a fair amount and try to negotiate the buses/trains. For a newcomer, it is bewildering. It would have made a HUGE difference for me to have a travel companion, and I believe the Spirit does push you toward those coincidental meetings that may help you through life.

    There is more good news: apparently there are a lot more flights into the White Plains airport these days, so if you ever go back for a reunion you might get to avoid that long shuttle ride.

  2. This story is a great example of the small and simple manifestations of the Spirit in our lives. What a wonderful story of faith in action.

  3. I know the terror of traveling on unknown transportation systems. I once was given directions on how to go from the taxi-ferry trminal-immigration-walk 8 blocks to go from a factory in Shenzhen, China to a hotel in Hong Kong. Then to catch a bus to a train to the airport the next day. The directions given were detailed an very accurate, so I gained a lot of confidence from that. But still very terrifying.

  4. My worst experience was trying to get around the subway in Tokyo. At least the subway in HK has directions in English. Tokyo was frightening.

  5. Geoff, I now live in DC, which is driving/train distance to NY. With the misery that is flying these days, I’m happy to have the alternatives :-)

    I’ve managed to (mostly) find my way around the public transit system in Rome, but it would be very stressful to find my way around in China or Japan or another country where you can’t read the letters!

  6. Pingback: Orange Hoodie › The Little Things

  7. What a beautiful post! My husband and I were stranded on Maui, where he needed emergency surgery. All of our belongings left on our cruise ship. Because of hospital regulations, I was not allowed to stay in the hospital, and all the nearby hotel rooms were full because the island has suffered a terrible storm and power was out on the south part of the island.

    A complete stranger helped me find a hotel room and drove me there. Another stranger, overhearing our plight the next day, found us a hotel room near the hospital, took me to buy food and needed supplies, and drove us to the airport when my husband was discharged from the hospital.

    We see Jesus in so many different, beautiful disguises, as Mother Teresa said, and as we love and appropriately serve those among us who are suffering so greatly, we love and serve God.

    Jesus taught, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matt. 25:40).

    How blessed we are by the kindness of strangers, and how much happier we would be if we reached out to those among us who need our help. A smile, a phone call, a simple act of kindness, and small donation can make such a big difference.

  8. Always talk to strangers. That book is about “meeting the love of your life”, but the principles of interacting with and speaking with strangers have other (hopefully obvious) applications too.

    Or in other words: “Open your mouth, open your mouth, open your mouth.”
    D&C 33:8-10
    D&C 30:5,11
    D&C 24:12
    D&C 28:16
    D&C 60:2
    D&C 71:1

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