My day began at 4 AM. Had to catch a flight to work.
We all offer up pleas for help when we get on an airplane: “Please don’t let someone be sitting next to me. Or at least let it not be someone who I can’t handle being next to on this flying metal tube for the next several hours.”
I boarded and made my way to my seat. I had hit the anti-jackpot: a mother flying solo with a toddler who couldn’t be more than fifteen months old. Internally, I groaned. Externally, I avoided eye contact and put my carry-ons in the storage above. I took my seat.
A funny thing happened then. I sent a wary look to my right, expecting the worst. The little boy was squirmy and curious, having more energy than is rightful at that hour. The mom looked understandably exhausted. The wee one looked my way, and without a hint of hesitation, held his hands out to me, toddler-speak for “pick me up.”
And so I did. The mother looked at me, and I said, “No worries, I have four kids. They’re all too old for this. I’d like to help.”
Her face shed stress in an instant. Relief flowed forth. It could have been from having a person seated next to her who understood her plight. Maybe it was the respite of a few minutes without a tiny human crawling everywhere in a space that demands stillness.
For that hour flight, we took turns holding the child as he threw magazines and stuffed animals. I dutifully picked them up, gave them back only to have them thrown again. Such is entertainment to one so small.
We landed, and I helped her get out ahead of me; she had a connecting flight that they had to make in thirty minutes. She thanked me and I said that I was happy to help, and meant it. They then made their way to their destination.
I tell you all this not for any sort of kudos. I tell you this to share what I got out of this: my renewed desire for patience. I have struggled mightily with this of late, I confess. But like the mom I helped for a small span of time on a plane, most folks are doing the best they can in the moment. I need to do the same. They need me to meet them there, with empathy and patience.
All it took was a rambunctious child sitting next to me on a plane who wanted to play to remind me. Thanks, little one. And thanks, tired mom, for allowing that message to come through.
Photo Credit: Of Gass