To the two women I met on a plane in 2015,
We were only together for a few hours. I don’t remember your names. I don’t know where in the world you are today. And yet, I had one of the most important conversations of my life with you. It started with a simple question:
“How are you?”
Before I met you, I had plenty of meaningful conversations with strangers, but usually, it was other people telling me their stories–not the other way around.
My husband, Matty Mullins, and I got married at 18. A year later, while we both worked retail in our hometown of Spokane, Washington, Matty found out an up-and-coming band from Texas was hosting open auditions for a frontman. So, he flew to Dallas to audition. He was up against 180 other hopeful musicians.
From Texas, my husband called saying, “I have bad news.”
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My heart sank. I started to console him, but he interrupted me and said, “We have 2 weeks to move to Dallas because I am the new frontman for Memphis May Fire.”
Within days, we left our hometown and moved to the Lone Star State.
I stood in the crowd at his first show a week later, glowing with pride. During the show, a young woman in her early twenties approached me. She was a fan, and told me that Matty was a great new frontman for the band. Then, she went on to say that Memphis May Fire and other music like theirs saved her life. She opened up about coming from an abusive family, experiencing sexual abuse, and subsequently battling addiction and engaging in self-harm. Moved by her vulnerability and wanting to help but unsure how, I listened and asked if I could pray for her.
Her story stayed with me over the years. As I traveled with my husband’s band, I started hearing similar stories from more and more fans.
After a while, I said, “Ok, Lord, you’re trying to tell me something, but I’m going to need you to give me direction.”
I knew I wanted to help people like these fans, but I didn’t exactly know how. I tried a lot of things. In 2008, I started a YouTube channel called “Ask Brittany Mullins,” opening up about my relationship with Matty and what makes us successful. I noticed many people just wanted to be heard. So, I created an email address and told people they could write to me. I wasn’t going to respond, but instead, create a safe place for them to get their feelings off their chests. However, I started getting thousands of emails a week. It became too much and too heavy for me.
In 2015, I was the manager of retail operations for Mac Cosmetics in Tennessee and Kentucky. While it was a great job, it didn’t feel like the right fit for me. With no backup plan and a leap of faith, I quit my job. I was scared. For a long time while Matty chased his dreams, I was the breadwinner in our family. What was I going to do now?
I quit right before the Super Bowl, so I promised myself I’d have fun for the weekend and buckle down that Monday.
On Monday morning, I made coffee, sat down to figure out my life, and then my sister called.
When I answered, she said, “Dad is dead.”
At 53 years old, my father died of a heart attack. I was devastated. My father was an alcoholic, and as a result, we didn’t have the best relationship. I created boundaries with him for my well-being, but I’d hoped for more redemption in our relationship before he passed away.
For the first time in my life, I felt like I touched clinical depression.
My mind raced with thoughts such as, “What is life? I just lost my father. There’s no redemption. I don’t have a job. What am I going to do?”
I felt hopeless.
After a sleepless night, I got on a plane to Spokane the following day. That’s when I met both of you. I sat in the window seat, and you two sat next to me. One of you looked about 25 years older than me and the other a little younger than me.
We were small-talking, as strangers sitting on a plane together do, when one of you asked me, “How are you?”
Usually, when a stranger asks that question, most people say they’re good or fine, even if it’s not true. I know I’d done that a million times before. But this time, for some reason, I responded truthfully.
“Not good,” I said.
You both asked what happened, and I told you. It would’ve been so easy for you to give your condolences, then put your headphones on for the rest of the flight. However, that’s not what either of you did. Instead, you told me you were sorry and asked if you could do anything.
When I told you there was nothing, one of you responded, “Well, the least we can do is make you smile.”
We talked, but I don’t remember what about. We played a game, but I don’t remember what it was called. What I do remember is that we laughed. A lot.
During a quiet moment, I looked out the window.
I thought to myself, “If I hadn’t talked to these women, I would have gone deeper and darker into my sadness. Instead, I opened my heart up. I was honest, and I received exactly what I needed,”
Then it hit me. I realized people need people, and I figured out how I wanted to help others. On the flight to my father’s funeral, I pieced together a vision for a non-profit where peers could mentor each other through hard times. I didn’t want traditional mentors giving advice, but peer mentors who would be there for someone no matter what.
Shortly after landing, I called my husband and told him about my idea. He loved it. When I came home, I googled how to create a non-profit.
Six months later, I started my non-profit called Beneath the Skin. We provide peer-to-peer mentoring to young women who feel alone or isolated. Beneath the Skin is a place where women can build their confidence through genuine connection.
Since starting, we’ve had 400 matches and have changed the lives of both mentees and mentors. By simply showing up, a mentor showed her mentee how to find value, beauty, and confidence in herself. Another mentee spent years in toxic relationships. After meeting her mentor, she found a lifelong friend. Her mentor was even the maid of honor at her wedding. One mentee who had suicidal thoughts said the program saved her life by showing her that she does matter.
If I ran into both of you today, I probably would first bawl my eyes out. But more than that, I’m writing to you because I want to tell you to keep being the type of people who are willing to put themselves in uncomfortable situations to help a stranger in need. You not only inspired me to be that kind of person, but you motivated me to encourage other people to be the same.
During a difficult time, you changed the trajectory of my life in such a beautiful way. You helped me find what I had been looking for for so long–a meaningful way to help people.
The odds of me finding either one of you again are pretty slim. Sometimes, I think about what would happen if God put you next to me on a flight again, like He did all those years ago. I imagine you’d smile, maybe not remembering me, and ask “How are you?”
This time, I’d smile back and say, “Blessed.”
With love and gratitude,