On Monday, October 19, after presenting my talk at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, I headed for the airport, excited to return home.After an hour in the boarding lounge, we were advised that the plane was delayed for another 30 minutes. As others who have experienced delays can probably attest to, this half hour felt like an eternity.

One can only browse a Smartphone for so long before boredom sets in, so I spent my time lounging around the gate where the other passengers were waiting. My fellow conference-goers were given away by the telltale name tags still dangling from their necks, Parliament of the World’s Religions tote bags in hand. After spending the previous days singing, dancing, holding hands, and laughing through the Parliament together, I was delighted to see them once again.

Yet, my friendly smiles were met with no response – their stoic faces remained. How odd. Were we not the same people who pledged world peace through harmony, love, and compassion just a short time ago? How could things so suddenly change, our pledges all but forgotten?For these questions I had no answer.

Perhaps we were too physically tired and mentally drained to interact with our fellow Parliamentarians at the same level as in the previous days. Perhaps our enthusiasm had waned after the thrill of the conference subsided, like nearing the end of a giant roller coaster.

Bothered by what I observed at the airport, I spent the plane ride home trying to analyze it. I came up with my own rationalization. Perhaps they were, as I was, exhausted and looking forward to getting back home to their loved ones, anxious to eat their favorite foods and sleep in their own beds. Barely four days had passed, and yet I had already called my wife to request my favorite meal for dinner that evening.

Whether these individuals were tired, frustrated, or simply could not muster enough additional energy to interact with others following such busy days, I will never know. But a more likely explanation seems the Salt Palace as a safe haven for the expression of emotion; a public rally where attendees could shout, sing, dance, and hold hands. In a crowd of like-minded people, walls come down and people open up.

In such stark contrast, the airport was a place where we were exposed, feeling vulnerable and even unsafe among those who don’t share our beliefs, issues, missions, and journeys. Perhaps those walls we had broken down just a few days ago had been rebuilt once again.

And I don’t hold grudge against them. They are only human.