When we picked up our youngest daughter, she was 6 weeks old. The charity that takes abandoned infants had made arrangements for us to leave her with a foster parent until our paperwork was done.
Those plans fell through.
The morning of our flight home, we found ourselves dashing around Southern California. We were in a borrowed car getting papers notarized, buying diapers and changing flight reservations to add an infant.
We arrived at the airport with very little time to spare. In the pre 9/11 world, we were able to grab our boarding passes to make it to the gate as they were closing the cabin doors. As we stepped into the aisle, I could see three available seats. Two near the front for my husband and eldest. The other one further back, a middle seat between two business men. The other thing I noticed was the horror on the faces of everyone around us.
As the flight attendant stowed the car seat, I made an embarrassing discovery. I had forgotten deodorant. With the mad dash through the airport, crowded airplane and sheer nervous energy, it was hopeless. Add to that the fact that Allison was behind on feedings (she had a cleft palate, so she had to be fed small meals often). In my mind, we were an air traveler's worst nightmare.
Flanked by two businessmen, I proceeded to make the best of an awkward situation.
The man on the aisle was gracious. On the short flight, I had to get up more than once to get help from my husband, change a dirty diaper in the lavatory (on the toilet seat) and mix formula in the tiny bottle we used for her feedings. The friendly man obliged each time without as much as a frown or a sigh. His patience was filled with the energy I needed to get through that leg of the journey.
Traveling these days isn't completely different with our girl. There is so much to plan for when you have a 13-year-old in diapers who eats through a g-tube. Thankfully, we always have more time to plan than that first time. We still find compassion from people, but changing diapers happens only in the airports now. The stress is still there. We don't wish an unpleasant flight on our fellow passengers, but outbursts do happen.
On a flight with just the two of us from Dallas she screamed the entire flight. While flailing her arms, she knocked my freshly poured coffee all over myself and throughout the bulkhead. The flight attendant’s comforting look carried me through.
Don't get me wrong, there have been impatient comments and cruel words from other folks. Some people see it as an unearned special privilege for us to get seated first. What they don't take into account is we have to leave last. We are captives in our seats next to a wall of anxious travelers. It evens out.
I have chosen to find a lesson in everything. It gives me strength. What strikes me as I look back is the kindness always outweighs the impatience. More people really are kind, lovely and patient than we often give them credit for. The mean people may be louder, but their deeds weigh far less in light of the beauty in our fellow humans.
My dear reader, can I encourage you to not only live out your kindness but take it in as well? You will find that there is much more strength to face the complexities of life when you rest in those things that add joy to your soul.
I have chosen to find a lesson in everything. It gives me strength.