A Good Age
I don’t think he really meant to hit her very hard. It was still a little difficult to watch, though also a little comical. A child I guessed was about nine months old was tottering on his mother’s lap in the boarding area. She was trying to get him to stand, but every time he could get a hand free from her loving grip, he’d take a little swipe at her head and giggle like he’d invented the mischievous toddler swipe all on his own. For the mother’s part, she had a good attitude about it. She was playing along.
I have a spiritual practice when I am in a boarding area to get on a plane. I look around at the people and I pray a little prayer that anyone there who others on the plane might be annoyed sitting next to will be seated next to me instead. As a smaller person, I have the privilege of fitting rather comfortably into any seat on a plane. I know that others might need more space or might be nervous about having to share such close space with someone who might shame or belittle them. I know I won’t do that, so I hope they are seated next to me.
I watched the mother and son pre-board with “those needing a little more assistance.” The mother’s hijab stayed entirely intact amid the son’s swiping, and they made a very nice picture of mother and child moving toward the jetway. So something inside me was not surprised in the slightest when I got to my seat and discovered that she was already sitting in my assigned seat with her son on her lap. She explained in spotty English that she will have to breastfeed during the flight and the window seat (I’d booked with the intention of getting some sleep) provides more privacy.
“No problem at all.” I took the middle seat. Honestly, any airline that would assign a middle seat to a mother with a lap infant is the party at fault here. Our merry row was coming together: mother and adorable child by the window, me in the middle, a little prayer answered, and we waited to see who’d join us on the aisle. When a very tall man took the aisle seat quietly, still reading something on his phone, I wondered how it would go. I glanced at what he was reading. It was an article on the Fox News app.
Fox News on one side and a woman in a hijab on the other, holding what I imagine would soon be a squealing infant, I was afraid. Aisle man glanced over a few times. I wondered if he was annoyed with some of the whining. I wondered if breastfeeding was bothering him somehow. I wondered if the hijab was bothering him more than either of those. And when the child woke from one of a number of naps, he put his hands up to me for me to pick him up. I could feel Fox News watching so I looked to my left. There was an enormous grin stretched across his face. He said, “I have two sons of my own. That’s a good age.”
I never thought to pray to be seated next to someone who would challenge my assumptions. I’d only prayed based on my own assumptions of what someone might be going through. The child didn’t disturb a single soul. A person who takes the time to download an app that makes me cringe had nothing but kindness for the rest of our little row. And our little village hurtled across a globe that seemed a little smaller, a little closer, a little kinder to me that day. Sometimes it’s the prayers we don’t think to pray that mean the most when answered and our little village was all the better for it.
May it ever be so.
Rev. T. J.