“Lost in thought” is where I spent the majority of yesterday. The day was mostly filled with travel and I was content to sit quietly without attempting to engage others in conversation. Okay, so that’s not quite accurate, but it is mostly true. I wanted to ask the architect sitting next to me on the plane about his work. I only caught a glimpse of the house design he was working on when he turned on his computer for a brief moment. As quickly as he opened his notebook, he then put it away and occupied himself watching movies on his iPhone.
The woman to my left was reading a book on her iPad and seemed content to stay focused on what she was reading. I was okay with that. I don’t always have to talk. Somehow in the pursuit of people watching, I always find myself wondering about their stories. The reality is, we all have a plethora of stories. Isn’t that true of you?
I’m making the assumption that most of us lead eclectic lives. We can’t always figuratively be “sitting on top of the world”. How did the songwriter express it? “Sometimes I’m Up – Sometimes I’m down.” Aren’t those two extremes that define our lives? For that matter, aren’t those the two extremes that define Christmas for many of us?
In his “Daily Briefing” post from Sunday, Nick Pitts talked about the impact of holiday music. It isn’t always perceived as a catalyst that lifts one’s spirit. Reportedly 23% of those polled would prefer to do without it. To add insult to injury, some studies have found that Christmas music can negatively affect your mental health. I guess you could say they are in for a tough time. It is really hard to avoid Christmas music this time of the year.
Maybe the folks who fall into the category of “damaged goods” are mostly the naysayers when it comes to Christmas. Yet at some level, all of us fall into that category eventually. If you didn’t have the privilege of being identified as the favorite son or daughter, then you’ve already got a strike or two against you.
Of course, when parents get it right, there are no favorite sons or daughters. Everyone is on equal footing. However, ours is not a perfect world and there are no perfect parents. The same could be said of kids. They don’t come in the perfect category either.
As children we learned the message early on: “He’s making a list and checking it twice…Gonna find out whose naughty or nice. Santa Clause is coming to town”.
For many children, Christmas time is filled with a sense of splendor and excitement and is not tied to “naughty or nice” categories. Shouldn’t it be that way for all children?
Life doesn’t always play itself out with a storybook ending. I recently learned the background of a lady who grew up in a large family. The family composition was just over a dozen and times were hard. I’m not just referencing Christmas time. I’m talking about real time on a daily basis. I guess you could say the family was “dirt poor”. Almost from start to finish, the family fell into that category.
When the family was smaller and there were only three or four kids, one set of the grandparents stopped by to pick up their oldest granddaughter on Christmas Eve. They would bring her back to her immediate family late on Christmas day showered with gifts and new clothing. There was nothing for the other grandchildren.
What if in the days between now and Christmas we chose to simply watch people with the intent of really seeing them? Could we make a small difference in their lives? Earlier this week, James Denison shared a moving story of the passenger in seat D-2. He was comfortably seated in First Class.
I normally fly SWA. Consequently, I don’t walk through a First Class section to get to my seat. On the occasions when I’ve flown on a different airline carrier, I’ve often wondered about the folks with wider seating arrangements and better amenities. I generally make a mental note to look them over carefully as I walk past on my way to coach. I notice how they are dressed and whether they a sporting really expensive jewelry.
I sometimes wonder what they do for a living. Are they members of the Fortune 500 club? Could they be folks just like me who simply choose to do it differently? I rule that possibility out pretty quickly. That definitely is not it! Are they doctors and lawyers and Indian chiefs? The comparisons could potentially go on and on, but I can truthfully say: “I have never reached the place where I thought I’d be more content if I could change places. I am not envious of the folks in First Class. I don’t think of myself as inferior to them.
At least that has been true until this week. Now I’m thinking of myself as significantly inferior to the twenty-year-old passenger in seat 2-D. I don’t normally envy someone, but now I want to be like that passenger and find that I am not. That saddens me.
According to Denison’s posting: “Last Thursday, Kelsey Zwick boarded a flight from Orlando to Philadelphia with Lucy, one of her eleven-month-old twin daughters. Lucy suffers from severe chronic lung disease and still needs oxygen at night and when flying.
“Carrying Lucy’s oxygen machine, the two were settled into their seat when a flight attendant told them a passenger in first class wanted to switch places. Kelsey later expressed her gratitude to “the man in 2D” in a Facebook post that quickly went viral: ‘Thank you. Not just for the seat itself but for noticing. For seeing us and realizing that maybe things are not always easy. For deciding you wanted to show a random act of kindness to US. It reminded me how much good there is in the world. I can’t wait to tell Lucy someday’.
Denison adds: “We change the world one person at a time.”
People watching is a great past time, but it reaps real dividends when we actually see and choose to make a difference. I want to be like that.
All My Best!