I assumed God was trying to teach me about patience. After all, my family was struggling mightily to maneuver through the airport parking lot with three young children and a skyscraper of luggage and car seats. The kids were just thrilled.
The true lesson came much later though, when we were settled outside of our gate and waiting for the green light to board. A little girl (probably 5 years old) randomly approached Avery and struck up the following conversation:
Other girl: Hi, my name is Elizabeth.
Avery: Hi! My name is Avery. My middle name is Elizabeth.
Other girl: I like to eat my hair.
Avery: I only eat my hair when it’s wet.
And with that they were off….Like long lost best friends they spent the next twenty minutes chasing each other around. Laughter filled the air. You would never have guessed they were complete strangers a few minutes prior. Eventually they had to part ways, but not before Avery ran over and gave her new friend a bear hug.
Meanwhile, I looked around to see nothing but the top of people’s heads. Their eyeballs were glued to their phones and other electronic devices. It dawned on me that Avery and Elizabeth might have been the only two in the entire waiting area actually speaking to one another. They were also the only ones laughing. (I don’t think that’s a coincidence.)
I’m currently sitting on the plane thinking about what I just witnessed. Watching children interact with one another is quite amazing. There is a boldness and purity to the way they form friendships. They aren’t the least bit afraid of judgment and rejection, so they dive in head (and hair) first.
If there was ever a time to judge someone and place them in the “weird” category, it would be after a person admits to eating their hair within the first five seconds of a conversation. My mind would search for a mental diagnosis from the DSM-5. Avery’s mind just looks for ways to connect.
Watching Elizabeth’s boldness in approaching Avery, and Avery’s immediate acceptance of Elizabeth, challenged me to think about my own life. How often do I put down my electronic devices and actually engage strangers that surround me? What if I stopped browsing my smart phone for something interesting and actually took interest in the stories of others? What if instead of judging and placing people in categories, I simply looked for ways to connect? What if started to enjoy people more?
These questions are fresh on my mind as I hear God speak to my heart: Gabe, you’ll meet some fascinating people if you approach people in the same manner as Avery. Engage people. Embrace people. Enjoy people.
We’re now nearly three hours into the flight and Avery has found yet another friend. He’s an older gentleman—a man who could probably land a job as a mall Santa– sitting on her other side. In fact, she fell asleep a few minutes ago and is now curled into his shoulder. I was afraid that she was bothering him, so I just tried to remove her from his personal space. He quickly stopped me. Instead of being upset that she was invading his already limited territory, he looked as if tears were about to appear in his eyes.
He looked down at Avery and then back at me, and whispered, “This makes me miss my son.”
I think he has a story to tell.
Perhaps I should put away my computer and listen.