At 18, like all teens, I thought I was ready to face the world alone, so off I went abroad. It was my first foray into the great unknown, and having never been on an airplane, I excitedly anticipated new experiences and adventures soon to be mine.
Before leaving the USA, I asked my overseas relatives to pick me up at the airport. I was very careful and responsible about letting them know my flight number and ETA. Then I boarded the plane, waving jauntily goodbye to my parents, a final wave of dismissal to needing them. The plane took off on time, hit turbulence, ran low on fuel and had to make an unscheduled stop in Athens, Greece. The flight dragged on and on and on.
After hours of being crumpled on a plane, we finally arrived at our destination. The passengers, half asleep from exhaustion, shuffled through disembarking. I, however, bounced off that plane, thrilled to finally be in Israel. As soon as my luggage was on my cart, I looked around the arrival hall to see if I could spot my cousins. No one was there remotely looking like family. I waited half an hour, an hour, two hours, two and half hours. No one came to claim me. More planes disgorged passengers. More people claimed baggage and moved on with their trip. And still I stood in the cavernous room all alone with my luggage.
I had no clue what to do, so I called home, collect. “No one is here to pick me up,” my voice shook as I reported the news. My family told me to wait by the phone so they could call my relatives. They then let me know my relatives had left to pick me up about half a day ago and had been waiting at the airport throughout the plane’s delay in Greece. As far as anyone knew, they were still there at the airport waiting for me.
I looked around the hall again, seeing none of them. I decided to wait another bit. “So what should I do?” I wailed to my father over the phone. “Look,” said my long-suffering parent, “it is not like I can drive over there and pick you up so you might have to check into a hotel.” I realized I was truly “independent”. I waited a bit more, but still no relatives came forward to claim me.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, I decided to move forward. I went over to the money changing counter and got some local currency and asked about local hotels. Having come up with a game plan, I took hold of the cart’s handle and strode forward, right out of the arrivals hall to where my poor relatives stood behind the barrier that kept folks out of the secure parts of the airport. Having never flown in my life before, I had not known one is supposed to walk out of the arrival area. My relatives had waited, with no sleep, for hours on end, for me. And I, naïve, innocent me, was sitting there waiting for them in an area to which they had no access.
When the Jews left Egypt, they stood at the shores of a sea that hemmed them in to face their enemy. In panic they began crying, and their leader, Moses, began praying. At that point, G-d said, “Why do you scream out to me? Forward march.” One man took the initiative, striding right into the sea, which split into grandiose safe passages for the Jews. If we know what we are supposed to do is right, we have to march right into the open space.
At 18, I learned one must stride forward to find that solutions to our dilemmas were right there, within walking distance, waiting for our arrival.
May we all merit to have the courage to stride forward, no matter how hopeless it seems, so that troubles can split and safe passage and solutions become apparent.