Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers - Part Two

I've written before about how, as the mother of three children four and under, I must often rely on the kindness of strangers. I hand my baby to women sitting near me in restaurants when the two-year-old needs a diaper change. I ask random teens milling around the playground to keep an eye on my four-year-old when I need to give chase to one of his younger siblings. I borrow wipes from other Moms when my three kids tap out my supply with their relentlessly filthy ways.

Yesterday, Snood and I were returning from a mom-and-son trip to Chicago. We had a noon flight, so we arrived at Midway airport around 10am. We picked up some lunch, brought it to our gate, and set up a little picnic on the floor as we waited to board.

As we looked out at the planes coming and going, we marveled (as people who live in LA's weather-free climate tend to do) at the impressive rainstorm that had commenced outside. It wasn't until I saw lightning strike the control tower that it occurred to me that "exciting weather" is not really what one is looking for when one is at the airport.

At 11:30 an announcement came over the loudspeaker that our plane had been diverted to St. Louis on account of the storm. Our flight would now be leaving at 2:25 which meant we had nearly three extra hours to kill.

Luckily the Southwest terminal is chock full of people movers, which we availed ourselves of for the better part of an hour. Then we hit up Ben and Jerry's for some emergency ice cream, and before we knew it, it was time to head back to our gate.

We arrived back only to discover that the flight was delayed again. 

Back to the people movers!

This time we saw plenty of other folks from our gate with young kids of their own. We gave each other knowing looks and exchanged groans in acknowledgement of our shared fate as we slid by each other slowly in opposite directions.

By 3:30pm the people movers had nothing left to give. We slumped back to our gate and learned that our flight was delayed yet another two hours. Everywhere you looked, the three dozen or so kids waiting for their flights were squirming in their seats, chasing each other around the garbage cans, and generally going stir crazy.

And then something awesome happened.

Other passengers -- the ones without kids -- started leaning a hand. I noticed one older couple playing peek-a-boo with a pair of toddlers near the snack stand. Folks began digging in their bags for snacks and toys they might offer to the children of people sitting near them. A mother of some older kids actually purchased a small Chicago Bulls net that stuck to the window and organized an impromptu basketball game using balled up bits of newspaper.

At some point Snoodie tired of the basketball game and began yelling loudly,

"I don't like this aiport anymore! I want to go home!"

A young man (I mean, this kid could not have been older than 21) waved me over. He asked if it would be OK if Snoodie watched "Thomas and Friends" on his computer. 

"Do you like trains? he asked.

Snoodie's face lit up.

"I LOVE TRAINS!!!!" he answered.

The kid handed over his laptop complete with fancy headphones and let Snoodie watch episode after episode until the plane was ready to board.

You know the story of the Loaves and the Fishes? I always thought of it as one of the "magic trick" stories from the Bible. In it, Jesus has been talking to a large crowd when it gets late and people need food. None is apparently available until a young boy brings up his five loaves and two fishes and offers them to share, at which point Jesus transforms them into enough food to feed the crowd with several baskets left over. 

But recently I heard a different interpretation of the story, which suggested that everyone in the crowd had probably brought enough food for themselves, and that when they saw the little boy offer everything he had, they were all inspired to share what they had brought with people around them. 

Seven hours after we had arrived at the airport we got on the plane. As I looked around the terminal and saw everyone waving goodbye to the kids they had befriended during the wait, I thought of that version of the story.

And I thought it seemed about right.