It was a crowded flight, and though I had an aisle seat, I was hoping to be left alone for the two-and-a-half-hour flight to do some quiet reading. I was feeling a real need for solitude and renewal.
Just then, a small boy paraded down the aisle and plopped down in the window seat across the aisle from me. A grandfather type, close behind, gave him a hug and reminded him that his mother would meet him in Baltimore. Then he left.
Soon an older boy, about 12 or so, took the aisle seat beside the younger boy. Almost immediately the trouble began. The young boy began bothering the older one, kicking him, calling him names, cursing at him, and pushing the seat of the passenger in front of him, annoying everyone around him.
After takeoff, several passengers rang for the flight attendant to speak to the boy, which she did, very firmly, but to no avail. Passengers were clucking their tongues and commenting on how undisciplined he was and how he had no right to be traveling alone.
Meanwhile, I was just trying to read - keeping my head low and straining to focus on the sublime passages I was finding in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy. For instance: "Man as the offspring of God, as the idea of Spirit, is the immortal evidence that Spirit is harmonious and man eternal" (pg. 29).
I felt this disconnect going on: Creation is perfect and spiritual. Creation is immature, disobedient, and craving attention. The more I wrestled over it, the more I began to feel like what was going on across the aisle was not "none of my business." It was absolutely my business because it was about my concept of God's creation.
I began to pray silently. It was a kind of prayer of protest - God is our creator and therefore we must be good. The children of Spirit must be spiritual, and as perfect as God is. Didn't Jesus say to be perfect like your Father in heaven is perfect? (see Matt. 5:48)
Then my prayer turned to action. I suddenly thought, "If this were my daughter and someone could help her to express her goodness, wouldn't I want that to happen?"
I remembered I had a small portable game in my purse. I leaned over and asked the older boy if I could switch seats with him. He was clearly relieved. I got out my game and asked the little boy if he'd like to play. His face lit up, and we spent the next two hours happily with only a little maneuvering on my part to let him win. As we were preparing to land in Baltimore, this precious child looked up at me and asked, "Could I have a piece of your gum?" "Sure," I said as I pulled out my peppermint flavored "Chicklets." Then he pulled out a wadded-up package of sweet, striped gum. "Would you like a piece of my gum?" he asked. I turned him down politely, but undeterred he said, "I really want you to have one." I realized that this was his way of thanking me - of expressing some of that perfection I'd been reading about. So, I did the only thing I could do - I put a stick of his gum in my mouth along with the peppermint I already had, just as he'd done.
He looked back as he left the plane and waved to me. I was continuing on to Portland, Maine, which gave me time to think about what had happened. The mental heaviness and weariness that I'd brought on the plane had lifted. I felt close to God, inspired, full of love. I felt like a football player looks when he spikes the ball after a touchdown - Yes! I knew it. We are the children of God. God's creation is good. And both this child and I had risen a little closer to our true identity and expressed it.
Thanks, little buddy, wherever you are.
The Spirit itself beareth
witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor