How a Lady With a Hat Found Trouble in Paradise

How a Lady With a Hat Found Trouble in Paradise
How a Lady With a Hat Found Trouble in Paradise
Photo: © Kate R. Farrell, CC BY-SA 4.0

The elderly lady wore a hat. It was something I noticed in the terminal awaiting my flight. Her hat stood out since most people at airports don’t stand out. The normal ripped-and-casual wear at the gates is all the same, marked only by its banality and ordinariness.

Inside the sterile atmosphere of most modern terminals, little details like these help break up the monotony of waiting at the departure gate, where everything is ruled by brutal efficiency without concern for beauty or adventure.

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However, such observations do little to break the isolation of being with people nestled in their own little worlds. It does not cut through the optimism and superficiality of this Facebook-like world of appearances.

Boarding the Plane

Far from this carefree atmosphere, I was thinking about the nation’s terrible political situation. I hoped to use the flight to put together some elements for writing something later. I felt very alone in my musings.

Boarding the plane, I made my way to my seat, where I suddenly found myself next to the lady with the hat.

During the flight, she again stood out. Instead of burying herself in a screen, she got out a big book. From what I could see, it was some bestselling thriller that I thought did not fit her personality. She further ordered a glass of Chardonnay Blanc and read intently.

Going Deeply into Subjects

I am not one to interrupt others in such circumstances. However, I did get out my own big book and read it in a very conspicuous way. As I suspected, she could not resist and asked me what I was reading.

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I told her I was reading a political book on revolution and polarization and gave a short summary. She thought the book was very interesting because it “goes deeply into the subject.” She seemed frustrated by the shallow side of our culture.

I was not sure where she stood politically, but I told her that the main problem today is not political but moral. She was very impressed with the answer and started to tell her story.

Living in Paradise

I was surprised to learn that the lady with the hat lives in paradise.

She is a retired widow with no financial worries. There are also no health issues as she manages to stay active. She shares the best of two worlds by spending half the year in Florida with friends and the other half in Colorado with her daughter and grandchildren. Everything is in place for complete happiness.

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“I am very insulated from the outside world,” she told me. “It’s like living in paradise.”

Troubles in Paradise

Usually, when people live in paradise, it is hard to get them interested in the nation’s problems. They are too absorbed in their personal affairs to think beyond. I thought the conversation would soon be over.

However, to my great surprise, she told me she was tremendously concerned about the state of the world. She even said she was reading the absorbing thriller (that did not seem to fit her) to get her mind off these problems.

She sensed the lack of anchors in society, saying we needed things like faith, family and community. When I told her I was dedicated to defending the values of tradition, family and property, she took her wine and said she would toast to that.

The COVID Trigger

A long conversation ensued. I was curious about what triggered her problems with paradise. She said the COVID crisis started a thought process that changed her outlook. The disastrous way the liberal establishment handled the pandemic was alarming.

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From there, other things fell into place. Nothing materially changed inside her paradise, but a whole range of more spiritual perspectives did change.

I was astonished to see her broad horizons. We agreed on just about every cultural and moral issue as the conversation skipped from point to point.

There was also a spiritual component to her change of perspective. Although not a Catholic, she was upset with the crisis inside the Catholic Church. She even expressed interest in attending a Latin Mass, which she recalled occasionally attending in her youth—full of mystery and ceremony. She claimed some of her Catholic friends left the Church because of the liberal attitudes of Pope Francis.

“I was a High Anglican liberal from Massachusetts that has now become a conservative,” she admitted, somewhat surprised by the transformation that occurred in three short years.

A Window into Paradise

As the plane landed, my fascinating conversation with the lady with the hat ended. It was like a window into a sector of the American public normally not engaged in the culture war.

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Although anecdotal, the incident gave me insight into what might be happening beneath the surface of the material paradises that dot the national landscape.

I had always thought that people change when challenged materially. Here, I discovered troubles in paradise that involve profound spiritual problems that material wealth cannot now resolve. People are worried despite their comfortable appearances to the contrary. Things don’t make sense anymore, which makes them willing to change their lives.

The COVID shock also had a profound impact on people and steered some toward the right path and to God. I believe this path is leading to many conversions to the Catholic Faith, which are now being reported.

Finally, transformations like these set the stage for changing society in a short time. Her quick change of attitude indicates something similar is possible in others and even society in general. Indeed, when there are troubles in paradise, people like the lady with the hat quickly start looking for alternatives and realize it is time to get rid of the snakes.