An airplane, a squirmy toddler, and a random act of kindness
is not a man of us who does not at times need a helping hand to be
stretched out to him, and then shame upon him who will not stretch out
the helping hand to his brother.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt
I flew to Chicago this past Sunday. It was the first time I flew since 2000, so I never before experienced the whole TSA "Remove your shoes and belt" thing. Long lines, bare feet, x-ray view of me. Yikes. I must say, I didn't like it one bit.
Then there was the actual flight. I'm not a fan. It's not that I'm afraid to fly. I simply don't like doing it. I don't like being told what to do. "Sit. Keep your seat belt on. Store belongings in overhead compartment." Plus, I don't like the idea that I simply cannot step off the plane whenever I want to. Now, don't get me wrong -- I know it's a safety issue. I just don't enjoy being in that position. I also don't like the feeling of flying. My ears felt like they were going to explode. The pain was insane. I kept wishing I'd had the time to take the trip by train or car. Flying is just not my thing.
I misunderstood boarding times, so when I arrived at the gate for my Southwest flight with 15 minutes until take-off, I was the last one to get on the plane. With Southwest Airlines, there are no assigned seats. Even though I was flying business class with an A-2 boarding designation, the fact that I got there after everyone else had boarded meant that my business class seating meant nothing.
I walked all the way to the back of the plane without spotting a seat. Uh oh. The flight attendant rudely pushed me forward and told me to find a seat and put my carry on in the overhead compartment. I tried to tell her there were no more seats, but she didn't want to hear it. Nor did she offer to assist me in any way. What is it they say about Southwest crews? They're so nice? Let me tell you, that was not my experience on either flight. Not at all.
As I started back up the aisle, I noticed a mom with a toddler. I asked her if the seat beside her was for her child and, picking up the little girl, she indicated the seat was mine for the taking. Great. A-2 seating and I'm stuck sitting beside a mom with a squirmy toddler. Yippee.
We hadn't even started out of the gate when Natalie (the 15-month adorable, but squirmy, little girl beside me) started fussing. She wasn't thrilled with having to stay seated, and she let her momma know about it. I spotted some board books stashed in the seat pocket, so I picked one up and asked Natalie if she'd like for me to read to her. Little did they know they were seated next to, not only Green Grandma, but to Maya Ray, as well.
(For those of you who don't know it, I am the voice of Maya Ray who narrates all of the English versions of Marvel's iStorybooks.)
Putting my talent, along with a need for peace, to work, I entertained the toddler with words and then with songs. Every once in awhile, she ducked under her mama's nursing cover for a bit of comfort.
Do you remember the car seat safety series we did awhile back? Yeah, me, too. Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, Megan Arce, did a post about the necessity of keeping your little ones in car seats on airplanes.Well, Miss Natalie wasn't in a car seat, but let me tell you, she was blessed with an attentive, patient, loving mother, who obviously spent lots of time reading and singing to this precious little one. I was thrilled that Maura did not pull out any kind of electronic device to entertain her child. She did it the old-fashioned way, with books and songs with motions the child obviously saw hundreds of times.
"Maya Ray?" Of course, she didn't know who Maya Ray was. She uses her own voice to read to her child. I was not insulted... I was delighted.
My plan, upon arriving in Chicago, was to take a cab to the Allerton Hotel along Magnificent Mile, but I was not happy about how much that was going to cost. Maura came up with a solution.
"If you want to take the train, you can go with me."
I took her up on the offer. After we retrieved our luggage (which arrived, thank God!) and Maura changed Natalie's diaper, we headed for the train. Maura swiped her train pass and I boarded for free. When we reached our stop, she led me to the bus stop and told me which bus to take. When it arrived, she hopped on, saying, "It's a Sunday afternoon. I don't have anything else to do." Again, even though this bus was not heading in her direction, she swiped her pass and I had another free ride. A few blocks from my stop, she, Natalie, and I said our thank-yous and goodbyes.
Here we were -- strangers who assisted each other (me helping with her fussy baby, and her helping a visitor in the city where she lives). I don't know how Maura felt about our afternoon together, but I know how I felt... incredibly blessed and grateful for the kindness of a stranger. What started off as an oh no kind of trip, ended as a reminder to me of how important random acts of kindness are in a world sometimes full of nastiness, selfishness, and misery.
Why did Maura go out of her way to help me? She said it was because, when she moved to Chicago ten years ago, people were so kind to her and helped her in many ways. She was just paying it forward.
Pay it forward, folks. It can make a world of difference.