At the end of the flight, two boys sitting one row apart stood up and discovered each other. Neither of them could have been more than 7-years-old. One little guy held a Buzz Lightyear action figure; the other gripped a pile of Pokémon cards in his hands. While waiting for people on the plane to file out, they boys introduced themselves and chattered about their love for Minecraft and Legos.
“We have lots in common!” Jesse announced.
For a few minutes, the boys lived without fear of loving or not being loved. Neither was afraid of being rejected. They stood with their hearts open, unafraid of being hurt. And they were actually doing a pretty good job of it.
“Also, we both have something wrong with us.” Mason pointed to his mouth. Anyone could see the brackets and rubber bands on his tiny teeth. “I have braces, and you have those things on your ears.”
Jesse’s mother pressed her son against her hip. “Are you talking about Jesse’s Super Special Auditory Amplification System?” she asked. I could practically hear her inner monologue. Stay calm. He’s just a child. He’s not trying to be cruel.
The plane was emptying quickly and Jesse’s mother asked her son to take one last look around to make sure he had all his belongings. As Jesse bent down, she leaned in to say something.
“Work with me here, Mason,” she whispered. “One day, your teeth will be straight. This hearing loss thing is forever.”
Jesse popped up like a meerkat. He handed his mother some candy wrappers, which she pushed into her pocket. Grabbing her suitcase from out of the overhead bin, she guided her son out of the row so he could walk down the narrow aisle in front of her.
“Jesse!” Mason waved his plastic Buzz Lightyear in the air. “Bye Jesse!” But the boy with the Pokémon cards didn’t turn around, and Mason looked wounded.
“You shouldn’t have mentioned his hearing aids!” Mason’s mother scolded. Throwing her purse over her shoulder, she pulled her son out the door.
The boys didn’t mean to hurt each other.
But mothers love.
And a mother’s love, which sometimes seems weak can also make us fierce. We want the world to appreciate our most precious people the way we do.
But isn’t this life? And don’t we, adults, sometimes find ourselves in these kinds of situations? Sometimes we make the wrong assumptions. We may inadvertently touch a tender place near someone’s heart. We may injure someone and never understand what it is that we did to hurt them. Or we may feel injured or rejected ourselves.
In airports, people carry suitcases and backpacks, but people lug around invisible baggage, too.
With friends, we like to think we have an inkling, but this is not always the case. Sometimes the feelings in our friend’s hearts are as far away as a distant galaxy or an exotic sounding destinations, like Kamakura or Fuzhou.
If only we could all activate our own Super Special Auditory Amplification Systems and really hear what’s going on inside each other’s heads. If only we weren’t so quick to believe the worst about each other.
Ever had an interaction with a stranger that wasn’t well received? How about a positive one? Do you talk to strangers on planes?
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