Motivational Speakers And Annoying Seat Mates – April 23, 2103
So I’m sitting there in yet another airport terminal waiting for my flight, and listening to this kid have a meltdown that could be heard from four gates away. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was not just a little meltdown, but an absolute screaming temper tantrum that I’m pretty sure would beat Guiness records for not taking a breath. I smiled politely at the stranger sitting across from me, while the voice in my head screamed “BRAT! Get that kid under control. If you were better at disciplining your child, we wouldn’t have to put up with the tantrums. It may be fine at your house, but you’re now in a public area. Not okay. Now we have to put up with your poor parenting. I could have gotten this at Walmart.”
I’m not proud. Just honest.
This went on for HOURS. The only consolation was that they were four gates away and not on my flight.
Yeah. About that.
Murphy's Law Kicks In
Here they come towards my gate as the plane gets ready to board, and I did the silent scream in my head. They were on my flight. The screaming kid, the mom, the dad, and two older brothers who were very quiet.
I began to pray fervently. Dear God, PLEASE don’t give me THAT one.
Apparently God Has a Sense of Humor
Because that’s exactly what He did. He gave me THAT one.
One seat up and to my left – there they were – giving me a front-row 3-D high-resolution fully-amped view of tantrum number 457 – which took on a whole new dimension up close.
Despite the fact that the mother looked like she wanted to hang herelf from her seat belt – I was still mad. This was a five hour flight. The one where I was supposed to rest. But obviously I have this magnet that attracts every annoying passenger on every flight.
And then the mother handed me this note:
And in that moment, my anger completely dissolved and turned to shame as I read this note that had been passed out to me and the other passengers whose faces were now changing from irritation to compassion – at least most of them. There were still those few who were obviously displeased – you know the ones. I whispered to my seat mate, “Too bad everybody can’t come with a note.”
What If We All Came With Notes?
And that made me wonder what if we did all come with notes – safety pinned to our shirts like in kindergarten? What would our notes say?
Hi, I’m the lady in 12D. When I don’t eat I get grouchy.
I’m the man in the wrinkled suit sitting in the exit aisle who thinks that “turn off your cell phone” does not apply to me.
I’m the crazy lady in the back who has spent the last hour talking to her purse. I’m really not crazy – I just see dead people.
Hi, I’m the one behind you that keeps kicking your seat. It’s not that I’m selfish, it’s that I am extremely afraid of flying, and I can’t keep my body from twitching.
I’m the man with the paper up front who never smiles. I haven’t since my wife died. It has nothing to do with you.
Hi, I’m the flight attendant who just snipped at you because you asked for water before I was ready. My husband just left me and my whole world is falling apart.
I'm the woman in 6B who has had too many gin and tonics. I don't know yet that I have a problem.
I thought to myself how the world might be easier if we all came with a note. As a motivational speaker, I talk a lot about the power of our story – and that we often give to other people a story that simply isn’t true. Just like I had done with Miemie. The little girl I had so viciously coined as a brat.
I sat there for five hours watching them. I saw the tired lines on the parents’ faces, and prayed that God would bless them with peace in the middle of such a trial. I watched the long-haired mustached hippy guy with flip flops and dirty toes, sitting in the next row up beside the other two children – who spent the entire flight telling them stories about his cowboy hat, and the places he has been. He never used the pillow he brought.
I watched the parents tend to this little girl every single second – matching her every need, and obviously struggling to stay one step ahead. And I thought about the fact that this is their life – every moment. And how much I take for granted.
I watched the little girl squeal in delight when the plane took off and how she looked at her Dad with a smile that was the most beautiful expression of love I have ever seen.
I watched her screaming because something had scared her, and saw her brothers reach their hands back through the seats to grab her fingers – and how she calmed immediately.
I watched as they walked her at intervals, sang to her, and tirelessly uncurled her fingers and toes.
I enjoyed watching Annie with her on the laptop – her favorite movie – and remembered how often we watched it with my son.
I watched the flight attendants tend to this family with patience and love and kindness and respect.
And I watched that one small moment when the little girl was quiet and just still enough to curl up in her mother’s arms – and I saw the look that crossed her mother’s face as she breathed in the scent of her little girl's hair. And I knew that feeling.
What I thought was going to be the flight from hell, actually turned out to be a blessing from heaven. A gift. An insight. A part of me changed in a way that I hope will stay with me forever. It was precious. Once again, I was given the opportunity to hear someone’s story. And, once again, I saw that it was nothing like the story I had written for them.
I hope that in the future I am not as quick to judge, not as quick to write their story – but quick to listen, and give them a chance to tell it.
Thank you, Miemie, for the gift.
And so a story that began with me saying “Dear God, PLEASE don’t give me THAT one" ended with me saying, “Dear God, THANK YOU for giving me THAT one.”