Caught behind a man, full grown, sending his parents, hard lived and wide eyed, down the gate line at LAX, I paused to watch.
The father, small, thin, and slightly bowlegged, carried two overstuffed canvas satchels, while the mother, short, round, and bewildered, clutched a purse to her side, ticket in her fist, and began a slow waddle toward the gate.
“Wait”, the son said, breaking away from his conversation with the gate agent.
Glassy eyed and full of love, he hugged his parents goodbye as he sent them toward the flying machine that would carry them 2500 miles away into a new life – a better life?
I could have gone around them, down another lane. I could have rushed in front, arriving at my seat some seconds before, but I waited and watched – heart flexing at the goodbye, curiosity conceiving stories, and compassion flooding over an old non-english speaking couple going on an adventure.
It was a slow walk to the plane, and slower still once we boarded. Unable to carry both bags down the narrow aisle, the husband passed one to his wife in front.
They stopped two rows into first class, and the man turned around ticket raised, rising concern in his eyes.
“Necessita algo?” Do you need something? I asked.
“They didn’t check”, he replied in Spanish, the slip of paper quivering between leathery knuckles in honorable display.
“Oh it’s okay, they don’t need to”, I smiled, grateful to be able to contribute some salve to the situation.
He nodded and turned to the task of finding their seats. Shuffling down the aisle, eyes glued to the numbers above each aisle, they made a slow procession.
Even though their tickets said 30E and 30F, their gaze never left the ascending labels starting at row 11, as though, should they glance down, they would miss their place.
An array of eyes looked up from the rows. Compassion, judgment, irritation, and curiosity settled over the ancient expedition. You can tell so much about people by how they react to others.
A crew member arrived to help the couple along, guiding them a bit more quickly to their seats. They squeezed into the row, man at the window, woman in the middle, sandwiching their stitch splitting sacks between them and the seats in front.
The steward took one and put it above, but the man clutched the second to his chest. I’d be surprised if he let it go.
I gave them one last glance, wishing them a smooth journey filled with patient people and a loving arrival, before finding my own seat at the back of the plane.
Cozied up in a row to myself (yes!), I marveled at our ability to slow down and witness the journeys others take alongside us, and the joy of extending a bit of compassion and awareness to them.
Had I hurried or rushed for a faster position, I would have missed the teary exchange of love between child and parent. I would have mislaid the chance to marvel at the way an old man guarded, guided, and watched over his wife. I would not have been present to help or beam kindness at the back of those two ancient travelers as they took steps along a foreign path – maybe someone else would have stepped into that space, but I’m grateful it was me.
I don’t know their story, but if I hadn’t slowed my own down, I would have missed witnessing this tenacious yet timid couple find their way in a new adventure, and as small as that experience may be, it has never-the-less enriched my life.
And when your life becomes a string of rich moments, what a masterful tapestry of depth and color you weave.