As our plane pushed through a cotton sprinkled cerulean sky, I closed my eyes and dreamt of travel with a newborn again. My hand cradled my growing stomach, this little womb that provides a first home and every other thing my unborn child’s life clings to. The beauty of carrying a child is realizing this, and knowing that soon the clinging will happen in our arms, through both tears and smiles.
A shrill voice pulled me from my thoughts. The voice came from the woman in front of me on the flight, an older woman with tall stature and poise, who also walked with an air of superiority. Her terse comments elicited responses from many earlier as she perused by on her way to finding the seat number marked on her ticket. The flight attendants began answering with short response to her curt requests, and justifiably so. As the mother with an adorably tired tot next to me desperately tried wriggling those wiggly arms and legs away from the un-jovial woman’s seat in front of us so as not to disturb the peace, I remember thinking, this woman, who’s scaring all the passengers on this flight, needs love too.
We’re happy to dish out ladles of love on sweet little families with clean and well-behaved children, on pretty women with blindingly bright smiles and too-high heels, and on pregnant mamas waddling through the halls (I know, I’ve been the recipient as the latter), but all too often we overlook the woman in 28B who has an attitude with the people in front of her that aren’t moving quickly enough… and even nodding our head imaginarily in agreement as others whisper retorts that wouldn’t dare say aloud.
But, what was her morning like? Did we stop to think why she might be on this flight, who she may be headed to see… or possibly to get away from? Sure, she could just walk with a chip on her shoulder, because that happens too. Or she could just be having a bad day, after all, haven’t we all?
And be we, I mean me.
My choice today is to Carpe the Diem out of this two hour ride with adorable squiggly toddler and her mama next to me and the tall, surly lady in row 28. I will smile at both. I will heave my pregnant self to help with bags or dropped bottles, because this time I’m traveling alone (save the growing bunny in my growing belly bump), and have two freely capable arms and two helping hands that I can spare.
And as I think about it even more, it shouldn’t be our choice who we’re going to help, who we’ll smile at, who we’ll treat respectfully. Judging blindly or from a few seconds, from the mere glimpse of a person’s life that we get the privilege to see. Of course, there are many we come across that it’s easier to treat the way we want to be treated, but someday you might be on the other side… the side of a bad day, a rough morning, a long trip we didn’t want to take, a journey we may have never wanted to make. Life is reciprocal, and someday I would want the person in the aisle seat to offer to take my bag up to my family that I’m separated from by ten rows so as not to wake the sleeping little next to me. I would want someone else to Carpe the Diem and grace me with a smile, or maybe even an extra set of hands as I wrangle a newborn and two other adorably tired wee ones through the narrow passages of an airplane aisle. And sometime soon, that may very well be the case… yet even if it weren’t, maybe my smile will be the only one someone gets today, and it could very well be one they desperately need.
Addendum: I scribbled this post on the ratty pages of a notebook in my purse while in flight, because for one, with wiggly toddler next to me, and extra drinks and cups on my tray table from said tot’s mama, I didn’t want to bust out my laptop to clickety-click away. An update for this flight? By the end of it, tall-surly lady in 28B had been won over and was smiling. And also? I had a chance to really live up to my Cape’ing the Diem mantra when we arrived almost an hour late (because we left late after waiting for connecting baggage to make it to our plane)… and after waiting for the luggage carousel to clear out, my suitcase was nowhere to be found. I wanted to stand in line at the Luggage Service desk with my own surly face and foot tapping until I remembered what I’d just written, and realized that these two overworked desk agents didn’t actually wish for their airline to lose luggage. So instead, I smiled. I waited my turn. And by 1am, my luggage was delivered to my door… and in the process, I didn’t turn into my own version of un-jovial woman. Instead I let love win me over as well.