2016 was a tough year for my family. We moved across the country just to move back home. I went through four months of unemployment, waiting for what I thought was the perfect job, just to have it vanish in front of me. “Everything happens for a reason”, is what people told me. What a line of shit that is. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we learn that things do happen for a reason. I now have a great job I love, one that never would have happened without the circumstances that seemed so grim at the time.
Sometimes however, things happen for reasons that have nothing to do with us. God uses us as instruments to influence others all the time.
Last Friday I was flying home on an eight o’clock flight from a long week on the gulf coast. I couldn’t wait to get home to see my family. Earlier that day, when I checked into my flight, the only aisle seat available was the very last row. I never choose the last row, but I really wanted the aisle. This was going to be a long flight.
I made my way to the back of the plane and found the window seat next to me empty.
“All passengers have now boarded” I heard over the intercom. I take a quick survey to take see what’s around. In front of me, is a young mother with her two-year-old son. Across the aisle to the right is another young mother with her two sons, one I am guessing is around eight years old and the other maybe half his age. No one else walking down the aisle.
Just when I got situated, I saw the flight attendant motion at me. “This little guy is going to sit by you today.” Out from behind her popped out a little boy, he was wearing tan shorts and a green t-shirt, he’s got an old camo backpack and his plane ticket was around his neck in a clear plastic sheath. He had shaggy blond hair and piercing blue eyes.
I asked him if he was traveling alone, and he said he was. He eagerly told me how he travels alone, “over one million times! Well maybe twenty-five.” I responded with short answers and selfishly put my headphones back on. I had no patience for him that day.
Sitting on the runway, halfway through the first song, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had a pen. He opened his backpack and reached around his phone, his tablet, toys, and his Samsung VR to grab an old blue spiral notebook. I asked him what it is and he said it’s his diary.
I gave him the pen, he turned to an empty page and wrote: “I am happy today. I fly to Texas to see my Dad.” He gave me back my pen and gently closed the notebook and neatly put it in the backpack. He thanked me for the pen and sat quietly.
Missing my children, I turned off my music and turned my attention to my new flight buddy. I introduced myself, he introduced himself as Lawrence. He told me how he has to sit in the back of the plane and he doesn’t like it because the engine is loud. I let him wear my “magic” headphones. “WOW” he yelled when the engine noise disappeared.
Lawrence and I talked the rest of the flight. He told me how he is seven, his mom lives in New Orleans, and his Dad lives in Dallas. They used to all live in Dallas, but his Mom and Dad fought a lot so she moved away. He told me he spends the summer in Dallas and the school year in Louisiana.
We talked about his favorite movies, and games. I told him about my two-year-old son and that he loves Batman. Lawrence quickly told me how Captain America is much better than Batman, we agree to disagree.
We talked about his older brother, how he is in the army and jumps from planes. He is Lawrence’s hero, like a real-life Captain America. We talked about his older sister, how she helps him get ready for school and plays with him. He has three sisters and one brother, Lawrence is the baby of the family.
I asked him about his friends back in Louisiana, if it is hard to leave them for the summer. He told me about Carlos, his best friend, they are going to go the same Christian school next year. When I asked him how his grades were, he looked away and said he gets F’s. He got an A in one class, I couldn’t make out the subject over the plane noise, but he was proud of it. He seemed very smart, could articulate well, and had good handwriting.
“Why do you think your grades are so low?” I asked him.
“I just don’t get it, I try but I just can’t seem to get it.” I asked if his parents help and he told me his sister does when she is free, but his Mom is busy. He thinks his new school will help him, I hope it does.
As we got closer to Dallas, Lawrence told me he loves to look out the plane and see the world. He reached in his backpack and pulled out his batman “goggles”. I laughed and asked him where his Captain America binoculars was. He ignored me and squished his head against the window to try see out the window. In the very back row the engine blocks the view. It was getting close to nine o’clock and the sun was setting; he was amazed at the beauty of the sky. I squeezed way over to the side and let him stand next to me so he could see out the window of the row in front of us.
After we landed, I told him how we should wait for the mothers and the children in front of us to go first, that as men we must wait our turn. He hung on every word, almost like he was taking mental notes. We said our goodbyes and I left the plane. Ten seconds off, I heard him call for his Dad as he ran across the gate to jump in his arms.
I couldn’t wait to tell my wife about Lawrence when I got home. Here’s a kid that has every reason in the world to complain. He didn’t, not once. I wrote last month about how we need to take note of what we are responsible for. This little guy took it to another level. He took ownership for everything in his life, he was determined to do better in school, study this summer and come back to impress his parents and his friend Carlos.
In a world of excuses and blame, he had none, and no one would blame him if he did. If everything happens for a reason, this flight, I think happened for both of us.