Take a toddler to an airport.
On my various trips wading through airports and flying with a baby, I have been awed by the emotional encouragement strangers have invested in me and my child, ready at any moment to help as I wrestled with the demands common to traveling alone with a kid--
The kind old couple sharing our five hour flight who held six month old Halle, though she screamed with separation anxiety, so I could use the restroom.
The exotic looking woman with flame red hair, rough tan skin, and fading tattoos who stopped to say, "God bless you."
The peppy flight attendants who learn Halle's name and repeat it throughout the flight, making her smile.
The business man who simply gave me a smile as I chased her up the airplane aisle for a fifth time, her little legs taking her anywhere but her seat.
The people who have let her crawl on them and play with their stuff, chew on their bracelets or watch movies on their laptops, who have smiled and waved and played peekaboo when they really wanted to read or sleep.
Most recently, at 9:00 p.m. in a Chicago Midway airport gate waiting to board our final flight home, I found myself laughing to tears along with thirty other tired and disheveled travelers as we watched little Halle stumble around like Jack Sparrow on her new walking legs, going from stranger to stranger to show them her most prized possession: her belly button. In a moment of willing vulnerability, the crowd laughed together as we watched this carefree toddler roam, assured and proud of her belly.
These are people caught in the weariness of travel, the gray layers of an airport, and yet the kindness emerges in ways that give me the most tender of feelings for these people. Taking a toddler to an airport has not discouraged me, but shown me the power of innocence to encourage good.
The girl loves to show off her belly button:
She refused to touch the grass with her hands, and every time she began to fall forward, she would throw those hands back, tighten her abs, and scrunch up her nose in concentration, determined to defy gravity.
Forget her belly button, Halle found out her finger fits perfectly in her nose...