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“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.” – Henry James
Ever travel with a spirited toddler? You know, the type who resists sitting still, sees life as one endless adventure, and is pratically swinging from the car seat with unbridled enthusiasm? Yep, that would be our daughter Naima; those eyes, filled with ebullience and adventure widen exponentially at the thought of novel discoveries.
You can probably understand my bubbling apprehension when Mom and I decided to fly with her to Arizona for a few days. Oh yeah, full on stomach summersaults about everything from keeping her occupied to lugging a Britax carseat the size of another small child from layover to layover.
Well that Tuesday evening before we boarded our first plane, the miracle of kindness began to unfold. Complete strangers offered us help, often before we realized we needed it.
I am sure we were quite a sight, Mom and I, moving hurriedly, tightly grasping luggage, exhaustion showing on our faces.
When we arrived at the airport, a young airline worker in his twenties immediately connected with us; we started to quickly explain we purchased our package online, and he calmly said, “I’ll take care of it for you.” He promptly checked us in without hesitation.
Not long after, making our way through the security check point, we turned around to see a young woman running behind us; she wanted to make sure Mom had her wallet which was left in one of the bins.
Remember that gigantic car seat I mentioned? Well on every flight (and we boarded four total), beautiful people helped us carry our carseat on and off the plane; it all started with a fellow Mom who sympathized with me, “I know what it’s like to travel with a little one, “she said, her smile easy and instantly comforting. “We moved across country on a plane… I’ll carry this seat on the plane for you.”
She urged Mom and I to move towards the front of the boarding line. “No, you guys are traveling with a small child, you should board now.” I would have hugged her if I were not holding Nai.
The phrase “random acts of kindness” is such a common way to describe what we experienced throughout our journey, but I don’t believe in random. I believe in purposeful.
It’s all connected, even if we cannot see it. God speaks to us through each life challenge, nudging us into a more complete trust.
Before we got to our last plane, we looked down at the boarding time on the tickets – less than 15 minutes to get to the next plane. The boarding gate felt as distant as China. Out of nowhere an airport worker, a Somali woman with skin the color of fresh toffee, said she would find someone with a golf cart.”You will never make it without help,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone.
She called for one of her co-workers who drove a golf cart, and ferried other passengers to and from flights. Mom quickly hopped on with the luggage, and Naima and I ran behind.
At this age kids are delighted by the novel, what annoys us as adults is seen as a joyful play to them. So Naima squealed with delight as we jogged through the airport.
Miraculously we arrived in a few minutes, but had to get on the plane almost immediately. I panicked. How would we get Nai back on another plane so quickly without irritation? Mom and I began to argue. “Melda (one of her nicknames for me), she said, exasperated, “we cannot spend the night in the airport!” “But Nai has not eaten dinner,” I countered, no longer willing to mask my frustration.
“How can I help?”a man with a friendly face asked. Before we could fully digest this random blessing, this Delta pilot offered to buy us dinner, and make sure our seats were next to one another. There was such peace on our flight home, a tangible calmness enveloped us.
In the weeks since I have thought so much about kindness and how it manifests in our lives, particularly during times of fear and frustration. Ultimately kindness is courage, the determination to move from our own life experience and consider the needs of others. Only when we see with our heart, as God sees us, will we begin to embody authentic and radical love, the root of kindness.