On my last airplane ride down to Honduras I had a man who had a little baby with him sit next to me. I could tell, as soon as he sat down, that he didn't speak English (or at least not very much). He smiled apologetically as he sat down and tried to quiet his crying baby. "What's her name?" I asked him in Spanish. He answered without any visible surprise at my ability to speak Spanish. He went on to tell me that he had left Virginia early that morning and he had a long difficult connection at the Chicago airport and was very excited to arrive in Honduras.
He was Honduran but had not gone back to visit in almost 8 years. We talked about where he was from in Honduras and how he had left Honduras without finishing high school. When he heard about what I was doing and studying he told me about how he wished that he had finished school and how he had been taking English classes and wants to continue learning English. When we were getting close to Honduras he pulled out the customs forms and I watched as he struggled to fill them out.
I noticed that he was making mistakes, putting the wrong things in the wrong lines. I didn't want to be patronizing so, I waited until he glanced at me questioningly and asked me how to answer one question. I looked at him and told him that he had filled out most of the form wrong and told him that we could get a new one and I'd help him fill it out. He thanked me and showed the relief on his face. The next time a flight attendant walked by I asked him for new forms and I helped my Honduran friend fill out his forms correctly.
I was struck by his humility. He asked me how to fill out every space. I learned many details about him, how old he was, what kind of employment he had, and what all of his travel plans were. I even ended up learning about some of his fears for his future and tried to reassure him that he would be ok and that he should be able to accomplish his goals. That he should try to finish his high school diploma.
He smiled at me and wished me luck. It was a strange experience where I was able to help someone who blessed me with his gratitude and was left wondering how everything turned out for him.