A thick strand of auburn hair fell down into her blue eyes, but “Mama” didn’t have a free hand to brush it back.
She carried her screaming newborn and her fussy 2-year-old in her arms, along with an over-stuffed backpack. Her 4-year-old son clung to the frayed hem of her sweater.
Down the narrow aisle of the plane they came, like a huge, human bowling ball of crying babies and gear rolling straight toward me.
Mama seemed completely overwhelmed.
When they stopped five rows ahead of me, I smiled with relief. Now if I only had my soundproof earphones, I thought, as I turned up the volume of my plastic airline headset, eased my seat back and tried to relax.
Mama put the baby in a nursing sling and he quieted, while she worked feverishly with her one free hand to get her other fussy children settled.
I watched her struggle, but I didn’t offer to help.
Thankfully, someone did.
The lady in front of me sprang into action. She buckled the two older children into their seat belts and put the backpack away in the overhead compartment.
Other passengers followed her lead.
The lady in the seat in front of them began playing peek-a-boo with the two-year-old. The guy sitting across the aisle handed the four-year-old his phone and started showing him pictures.
There we all sat together for a while, waiting on the tarmac with babies crying, confined within the narrow space of the airplane, headed for the same destination.
After takeoff, the baby fell asleep and mercifully, the other children quieted down.
The flight went surprisingly well. But as we landed and taxied to the gate, two of the three children began to scream.
The same passengers leapt back into action. One retrieved the backpack, another held the baby and still another escorted the four-year-old off the plane.
I watched in awe as they loaded the toddlers into a double stroller in the jet bridge. One passenger pushed the stroller. Another carried the bulging backpack. Up the bridge they went, helping Mama all the way to the baggage claim, where her parents were waiting.
Tears flowed down Mama’s flushed cheeks as she turned to the helpful passengers and said: “My husband is deployed overseas. I missed my parents so much, I decided to make the trip home on my own. I’ve dreaded this flight for weeks. Thank you all for being so helpful and kind. I will never forget it.”
Neither will I.
Life is a lot like that flight.
All of us are traveling through life, confined within the narrow space of our humanity, headed for the same destination. Like it or not, we’re on this journey together. We can choose to be concerned solely with our comfort (like I was) or we can choose to serve each other along the way.
Every day, we face this same choice over and over:
• Someone we love is in the hospital: let’s go visit.
• A friend needs a ride home: let’s gladly give them one.
• An old man struggles to carry his groceries: let’s carry them.
• A new neighbor moves in; let’s stop by to introduce ourselves.
• An overwhelmed Mama really needs a helping hand: let’s help her.
This is how God calls us to live:
“Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God’s blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors…” Deut. 15:10-11 MSG
To the Mama on my flight who I didn’t help: I’m sorry. I want to be the kind of person who steps out in the aisle to serve, instead of sitting back. I want to be kind and patient. I think we all do.
We certainly don’t want to have this attitude:
May God help us see other people’s needs today. May we open our hands and our hearts to help someone along the way, and if we do, we will also be blessed in return.
I know you travelers have seen some crazy things happen! Warm our hearts today by sharing below about something you’ve done (or seen someone else do) to help a struggling passenger.
I’ll start the conversation. Once, I prayed with an atheist trucker in an airport terminal. What about you?