Friday, January 20, 2012

The Others

I’ve been slacking on writing. I know. I know. But I’m back with many apologies. Forgive me?
The holidays this year had their usual busy-body tone with me dragging myself all around three different towns to get three different sets of Christmas presents so as not to have to travel with tons of gifts. But the traveling is what really provided the story this year. There’s always something that hits me every Christmas season with a bit of bittersweet clarity about the world we live in. Most of the time these epiphanies come from being around or away from my family, but this year my lesson came from a family of strangers. 

As my big Christmas present this year my mom bought me plane tickets from Orlando to Newport News so I could come home for three weeks and spend time with my family and friends. As much as I travel, I still have horrible anxiety on planes, plus the fact that I’ve always had inner ear problems exacerbates the discomfort for me. This time I came prepared. I took a Dramamine and had a friend drive me to the airport because I knew it would kick in pretty quickly. Especially with my size Dramamine takes its toll… to the point where I barely remember the Orlando/Sanford airport. I remember having my hands wiped down with some liquid substance at the security checkpoint and asking the officer what it was for… and I can remember being patted down. I have no recollection of sitting and waiting for the plane but as soon as I stepped onto the plane I can’t explain why I zeroed in on the woman that I did. 

As I stood in the very front of the plane I watched a woman towards the back struggle to get mini-suitcases with cartoon characters all packed into the overhead compartment. She was holding up the entire line but I was too far away to help and I just watched in wonder as everyone in her vicinity just glared at her and rolled their eyes. Nobody offered to help. They just watched her struggle. She finally got situated and the row of people began to get to their seats. I walked back looking for my seat number and smiled softly when I realized I’d be sitting beside her. 

Even in my daze as I began to get comfortable in my seat I quickly pieced together her ordeal. She had a small child on her lap who she kept chiding in soft Spanish, and I quickly noticed the three children across the aisle begging their grandmother for help and how-to tips on buckling their seatbelts. She seemed to have it handled at that point so as the Dramamine did its job I pulled the brim of my hat down and tried to relax and nap while everyone else settled into their seats… but that baby in her lap was restless. The cutest little girl with café colored eyes was too excited to be buckled in. She had too much anticipation and amazement to sit still. Her grandmother trying to hold her down in her lap was not going to stop her, and so the screaming started. Quietly, and in Spanish, the grandmother talked to the little girl, “Mikayla, you see the lady with her hat down. She’s trying to sleep. If you keep crying she will wake-up and Pow-Pow you Mikayla. Entiende?” I moved my hat up and smiled at the little girl who was now looking at me like I was the boogie man. 

“Ha, you got her freaked out about me now” I commented to the woman. 

“Oh my goodness you know Spanish?!” she replied in embarrassment. 

I told her it was okay as the child began to try to climb over my lap to look out the window. “Is it ok if she sits in my lap so she can watch as we take off?” 

“If you’re sure it’s okay with you.” 


I let the little girl climb into my lap and I buckled her in with me. I started pointing out the tarmac, the palm trees in the distance, and the other planes. The grandmother handled the other kids and got them calmed down just in time for take-off. I won’t go into the details of the entire flight but I let the girl sit with me the entire time. She played with my phone, rocked my Hokies hat, and we snacked on oreos and apple juice. Her grandmother was back and forth down the aisle the entire flight taking the others to the bathroom. The Allegiant flight attendants treated this woman and her children like they were a burden. When she tried to order snacks for the kids they were rude and impatient with her. I caught one of them scowling at her at one point and made sure that she saw my disapproval when she made eye contact with me.
When we landed I thought that maybe my frustration with the crew on the flight and the other passengers would have ended but it was only about to get worse. The woman took the baby across the aisle so she could start getting their luggage down again. Once again she was a hindrance to everyone in their mindless rush. With all the people standing in between us I struggled to get her attention as I got began to put my backpack on. The man in the seat behind me grabbed my arm, “You’re my hero,” he said. 
“Excuse me?” I was so puzzled. 

He continued, “Thanks for taking care of that kid for the flight, she would’ve screamed the whole time and I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep!” I looked at him wondering if he was serious and then looked at his wife beside him who seemed to be in agreement with what he was saying. 

All I could say was “I do what I can.” and I had to turn my back before anything else came out of my mouth. I was so angry. None of these people cared that this elderly woman was trying to take care of four VERY young grandchildren on her own on their first flight. All they cared about was the fact that she was an inconvenience to them. As I watched, a flight attendant came scooting past the line and basically knocked right into one of the children. I finally caught eye contact with the grandmother and asked her if I could help her by taking the three youngest children with me up to the entrance while her and the oldest child got the rest of the luggage. She nodded at me, exasperated. I quickly scooped up the baby, grabbed the hand of the littlest girl, and told the little boy to hold onto his sister’s other hand. We got off the plane and out of the traffic of holiday hustlers. I stopped for a mere second to make sure the grandmother and oldest granddaughter were behind me and proceeded to take the kiddos to meet my mom at the gate. Needless to say, my mother had no idea WHAT was happening when she saw me toting three little ones. 

Anyway I tell you that story to tell you this; we weren’t put here to be in our own little world. We were put here with others to be in community. The flight attendants have a job to make sure people on that plane are satisfied, yet they wouldn't even help out an elderly woman in distress. In a “time of giving” as the holidays are so readily called, it was astounding to me to see that nobody would even give what was free; help. This woman wasn’t asking for a handout, she needed a strong arm, a smile, and probably some encouragement. Why was that so hard for everyone else on the plane? This year make your life about others. 

 A generous person will be made rich, and whoever satisfies others will himself be satisfied. –Proverbs 11:25

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