OK, so maybe there wasn't a train, but it was still like something out of a John Candy comedy, only it was happening in real life, to me. Our airplane was actually on the tarmac, ready for an on-time takeoff, when the pilot announced that we’d be going back to the terminal for more fuel. That can’t be good, I thought. Turns out that storms in Atlanta might keep us circling in the sky longer than usual, so they were taking precautionary measures. I appreciate that in an airline, I suppose.
And circle we did. We circled so much that I missed my connecting flight to Chattanooga, so off to the bus terminal I headed. What choice did I have? I was scheduled to speak at a conference first thing the next morning. After a significant wait, I boarded a shuttle for the two-hour ride north. When I arrived in TN, it was 10 pm, way past my bedtime and way too late to eat. Still, I hadn't had a meal all day, so I headed out in a taxi for what felt like a midnight a snack at Chili’s before tuck-in time.
So you can imagine how exhausted I was as I stood at the door to my break-out session, mustering up what little energy I could to greet workshop participants with a handshake and a welcome as they trickled into the room. The coffee hadn't quite kicked in yet and I wasn't feeling the usual adrenaline rush I typically feel before a presentation. That’s when I saw this somewhat familiar smile heading my way. I’m in Tennessee, a long way from my home in Texas, how could I possibly recognize anyone? I quickly glanced at her nametag. Catie. I recognize that name, from email I think. She reaches out for a handshake and says, “So nice to see you again!” She's oozing with enthusiasm and positive energy.
But the Catie I’d chatted with online a handful of times is from a small school in Oklahoma, surely it couldn’t be the same one. So I ask her to remind me how we know one another. That’s sort of awkward and slightly uncomfortable, I know, but it trumps the alternative, which is pretending that I know exactly who she is or how I know her. She says that she came to my workshop last summer in Dallas, but that since I was only presenting in IN and TN this summer, she’d gotten district approval to attend the Chattanooga conference. I probably looked shocked trying to figure out what she was telling me; I was, after all, sleep deprived from the trials of the previous day’s travels. To help me understand, she added that she had driven 700 miles just to participate in my workshop to Sing, Dance, Laugh, and Build Character with me. Seriously? This counselor trekked across the country for my workshop, to learn from me? I still treasure that amazing affirmation. The instant energy from her heartwarming smile, her hearty handshake and that heartfelt handful of words resulted in most likely one of my best presentations ever!
Catie continues to inspire me. Much like the drive from OK to TN (and back!), her life’s journey has been, at times, quite arduous and challenging. But her gentle, giving spirit coupled with her incredibly tenacious nature always cultivate the stamina and sustenance she needs to not only survive but to thrive. Catie reaps what she sows; she’s a successful mom, grandmother, counselor, author, motivational speaker, life coach, and friend. Visit Empowerment International for her delicious recipes for the kitchen and decadent recipes for life.