This afternoon I was on a flight with a family from somewhere in Asia (forgive my ignorance) who spoke no English, had very little with them and looked very weary and tired. I ended up sitting across the aisle from the daughter, her mother was on her other side holding a little boy, about 18 months.
At first this little girl (4 or 5 years old maybe) was very quiet and just looked around with her big, brown eyes. I waved and smiled a couple times but she didn't return my gesture. Her jibber jabber woke me up about 30 minutes into the flight and when I looked over at her, she had a huge grin on her face. We smiled back and forth for a while and then the flight attendant came and brought us drinks. When the flight attendant set the napkins down on the tray table, the little girl picked up the napkin and looked at it in amazement. She folded and unfolded the napkin a few times and then the flight attendant set the cup down in the napkin.
The girl had a lot of fun drinking out of her straw and playing with the napkin. I used my napkin to daintily wipe my lip and she laughed. After a while she reached into her little bag and her eyes got very big. I could tell she was looking for something special in the bag that she wanted to show me. She found what she was looking for and excitedly pulled it out of her bag. It was a plastic spoon.
A plastic spoon...that was the one thing she wanted to show me? My throat got dry and my eyes got watery immediately. Here I was drawing her funny pictures on my iPad and her favorite possession was a plastic spoon? How spoiled am I? How blessed am I? How humbling is this?
After the flight attendant picked up the girls "trash" I quickly slipped my napkin over to the girl. You would have thought I gave her a million dollars. She unfolded and refolded the napkin numerous times, eyes big and smiling the whole time.
We contined to smile back and forth for a while and then I had an idea. I grabbed a piece of paper out of my book and made one of those paper finger pincher toys. My mom used to make them in church for kids sitting near us, I thought it would be an easy game that didn't require a common language.
At first she was skeptical, but I continued to pinch my ear, my nose, her finger etc. until she got the courage to play with it herself. I put her little fingers in the pockets and after a little bit she had it figured out. She started talking talking talking. I am not sure what she was saying, but she was having fun!
As we were landing she put it in her seat and started looking around. When I looked back she was pinching her mom's chins and laughing. Her mom must have asked her where she got the pincher and she reached across the aisle and patted my arm. Eyes watering, again.
I couldn't help but worry about this family as they got off the plane. Where would they sleep tonight? How would they get there? What would they eat? I passed them in the terminal, the little girl had her pincher in hand, and I decided I would hang outside security just to check that they had someone waiting on them.
Not only did they have people waiting, they had a whole welcoming party, mostly college aged Americans. There was also one family that looked similar to the girls parents. I quietly said a thank you prayer that they had someone that would speak their language and give them a warm home, at least for the night.
It's so easy to get caught up in what we don't have that we forget all we do have. I have a basket full of paper napkins and plastic spoons and I never even think about them. Here's to all the paper napkins and plastic spoons of my life. I'm thankful I have a job that I can afford them, thankful I live in a country where I'm free to buy them, and thankful I have a family to share them with.