August 9th, 2008 11:36 PM by Lehel Szucs
A Public Proposal
By Alan Cohen
It was after 11 p.m. -- the overbooked flight was already an hour late for takeoff, and the crowd was getting grumpy. If ever there was a chance to practice peace in the midst of annoyance, this was it.
Finally we were herded onto the plane and I settled into my seat, with hopes of getting some shuteye. As soon as we reached cruising altitude, the flight attendant's voice boomed over the P.A. system: "Ladies and gentlemen, one of our passengers would like to request your assistance with a special event he is planning when we land.
Dave in seat 17B is going to propose to his girlfriend, who is meeting him at the gate. He would like you to help him deliver some flowers to her. If 24 of you would each get one rose from Dave and give it to his lady before he gets off the plane, you can participate in his proposal. Dave will show you a photo of Heidi... to make sure the right lady gets the flowers."
Ah, what a wonderful idea! I wanted to participate, but I was seated too far from Dave to get to a rose before the other passengers. When we landed, however, I was one of the first off the plane, and I positioned myself off to the side to watch the romantic spectacle.
Sure enough, there stood a lovely young woman waiting for her man. One by one, passengers exited the aircraft, each with a red rose in hand. With a smile, each person delivered a flower to Heidi, who shyly received them. Then the passengers formed a semi-circle behind Heidi, waiting for Dave and the Big Question.
Finally all the passengers had left the aircraft -- except for Dave. The flight crew exited, but the groom-to-be was still conspicuously absent. Then the pilot and copilot emerged. They closed the door behind them, commenting, "Well, I guess that's it for the night." The crowd stood silently, watching, waiting, and hoping. Had Dave chickened out?
Suddenly, with all the aplomb of a Hollywood epic, the airplane door swung open one last time, now to reveal a handsome young man in a bright sailor suit. Dave had arrived. The audience breathed a welcome sigh of relief.
The knight in white, carrying yet another dozen red roses, strode proudly to his lady-in-waiting (who by now looked like Miss America, flowers piled to her nose). Tears streamed down her cheeks as she nervously watched her man approach, knowing full well what was about to happen.
Dave presented her with the flowers and ceremoniously dropped to one knee. The audience was rapt. By now it was nearly 1 a.m., but no one was going anywhere. Over 100 people fell silent and watched with awe.
Then he did it. He really did it. Dave produced a glittering gold ring and asked Heidi, "Will you marry me?" Of course she would. She tearfully nodded, and he slipped the ring onto her quivering fourth finger. With that, a great cheer and burst of applause went up from the jubilant crowd. The ovation reverberated through the silent airport, and probably still echoes today.
One by one, the group congratulated the couple and then we all made our way toward baggage claim together. The corridor was filled with laughter, chatter, and storytelling. People were happy.
Then something very profound occurred to me: the entire crowd had been transformed. Over a hundred people who had been tired, impatient, and frazzled two hours earlier, were suddenly awake, joy-filled, and playing with each other. Such is the transformative power of one sincere expression of love.
We have been told that energy and fatigue depend on the time of day, how many hours of sleep we have had, stress, environment, age, and many other factors. Yet here was a group of people who had been awake for a long time, traveling under stressful conditions in an unnatural environment, yet they had more energy when they got off the plane than when they began!
Energy and happiness have little to do with what is going on around you, and a lot to do with what is going on inside you. You can find yourself in ideal conditions and be miserable, and you can be in the most adverse conditions and soar. Environment and physical factors may influence us, but attitude makes or breaks us. You may not be able to change your environment, but you can always change your mind.
Joy is the wild card of life; it supersedes every other formula for success. If you can find a way to create joy, you can rise beyond all external factors. If you can play at whatever you are doing, you are the master of your life. And if you should ever have the occasion to make a public proposal, you can take a planeload of 100 bugged and weary people, and turn their evening into a party they will never forget.