The Best Way to Fly

The business world is flooded with books, videos, and seminars about managing time. When I consider how much I have spent on these materials, I sometimes wish I had been more careful in managing my money. Nevertheless, I have learned valuable lessons in using time well. And the greatest opportunities for me came during a flight.

Times were when being a passenger was an experience to be savored, with a good magazine and all the peanuts one could eat. Today we are road warriors, connected to our laptops and cell phones, earnestly typing reports and managing the office from Terminal D, Gate 36—and eating pretzels.

I decided this flight was going to be like it once was. I settled into my bulkhead seat, on the aisle, about to leave Detroit for Amsterdam. With so much time ahead, I had packed away my work gear in the overhead storage compartment and pulled out my new paperback regaling me with exciting tales of the Civil War. The headphones piped soothing music. Nine hours of reading and relaxation would be my reward for previous flights of pure labor. This was going to be a delight—until I heard the baby screaming and wailing.

I could imagine the hairs standing straight up on every passenger ten rows up and twenty rows back, silently praying that this child and connected parent would not sit next to them.

With terror in my being, I saw the mother’s face flicker with recognition at her row and seat . . . right next to me.

All of us experience crossroads every day in every situation. We can say or do one thing or another. What we choose determines destiny. And something spoke to me that this baby and her harried mother were my destiny.

As the mother struggled to put items one-handed into the overhead while the child furiously kicked, I astounded everyone, no less myself, by standing up and taking the child into my arms.

“This is how my kids love to be held.” I smiled, turning the little girl stomach-down on my right arm and bouncing her gently. She and some passengers were slack-jawed.

Surprised, the mother expressed appreciation while she stuffed diapers and wipes around our seats. “Thank you,” she exclaimed. “I had prayed to God that I would sit with someone who would understand Ava.”

Ava cooed.

For the next 40 minutes Carol related how difficult life had been since her recent divorce, and she added that she never had a chance to work through her pain because of Ava’s needs. Now, with a flight headed for her native Netherlands, she hoped to begin anew.

“I don’t know what I’ll do next,” she said, as she quietly rocked a sleeping Ava. “But I hope to meet people as nice as you.”

At that moment the lead flight attendant knelt in the aisle next to me. “Sir,” she said, “We’re going to attach a crib to the bulkhead for the little baby. Do you mind?”

There are crossroads every day. I can choose. Those choices determine destiny. “No,” I said, “I don’t mind. Whatever helps.”

“I was hoping you’d say that,” she said, standing up. “You see, all the flight attendants noticed how kindly you’ve treated this lady and her baby, and to thank you we’d like to ask you to take a seat up in First Class for the rest of the flight.”

Leaning tenderly over sleeping Ava, I kissed her forehead. “Thanks,” I whispered.

“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1, RSV).

By Victor Czerkasij

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