Big man, little baby

Be prepared for the unexpected when traveling on a plane. Besides delays, cancellations, and extra luggage costs, one never knows who will sit beside us. Most people just take their seats, get out a business report, book, or iPad and bury their head in it. We may hardly see their face until touchdown.

I wanted this type of anonymity on a return trip from Dallas. Sitting near the back of the plane, I looked forward to a quiet ride home. As the plane filled up, a very tall man came toward me. He wore track pants, and from his size, I figured he was a basketball player. When he got near me, he stopped and said,” I’m in the window seat next to you”. I immediately noticed that he carried a small baby not a duffel bag. “Oh no!” I thought,” There goes my quiet trip home.”

It didn’t take long before the infant girl took a fancy to my sweater, as she began pulling on it. Next, the baby must have wanted my seat, because she kept trying to push me out of it. Finally, she spit out her pacifier and cried. The big man held her in one arm while he tried to find it. I said, “Should I get up so you can look for it on the floor?” After he said “Yes”, I stood in the aisle and he began his search. Finally succeeding, he held it up and said in a conquering voice, “I’ve got it!”  I sat back down, the child became quiet, and the plane began its final approach. As I left him, I thought, “The big man made it and so did I.”

Later, I reflected on this experience. I was inconvenienced, but it mattered little, considering what the man went through to treat his child with dignity and respect. He never raised his voice, but showed her love, as he struggled to make her happy.

When Jesus said, “Let the children come to me”, he knew that children act up, squirm, make noise, cry and do the things that children do. As I recall the tall man, I remember Jesus with the children and the responsibilities of fathers for their children. It’s so important during their formative years to treat them with patience, and love!

Order Fr. Hater’s latest book, Common Sense Catechesis: Lessons from the Past, Road Map for the Future.