Not About Us
Written by Kari Snyder
Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
It’s not about us. It really isn’t. But that is a challenging thing to wrap your head around. I find that God reminds me of this—and what’s truly important—in those moments when I least expect it. It is those moments which tend to be the most impactful. A few years ago I had a chance to be reminded, in a loud, crazy and captive way, that it wasn’t all about me—even though that’s what I had planned.
My husband travels for his job. His travels take him to a variety of places in the U.S. Some interesting, some less than interesting. But on one particular trip he was asked go to Marco Island, Florida. In January. Oh, and we had two young children at the time. I jumped at the invitation to tag along, envisioning myself sitting in the sun next to some body of water that wasn’t frozen over. Shorts, flips flops and something fruity to drink. No one to beg to eat their veggies, get their shoes on—now!–or brush their teeth. Leaving the ice and snow of Minnesota for a long weekend with no worries was a dream come true. My folks were troopers and volunteered to take the kids. It was all going to work out perfectly.
We packed for our trip (which, I realized was very easy when you weren’t including two children and all the things that would have been needed for a plane trip and hotel stay). I was excited to have only one thing with me for the plane ride….a magazine I’d been looking forward to reading for some time. Jon and I were near the back of the plane, him with the window seat and me in the middle seat. The aisle seat to my right was open as were the three seats on the other side of the aisle. The plane began filling up and I relished the fact that I could now open up my magazine and simply enjoy. I can remember looking at the first two pages and thinking, “Isn’t this nice? We should be taxing to the runway soon. I wonder if these last four seats will be occupied. I hope not. I could stretch out!” Then, in my blissful state, I took a peek up and saw someone walking back our way. She was maybe a few years younger than me and I noticed she had a baby carrier strapped to her chest. Then I saw a very small infant in that carrier. Well, I figured, she must be in one of these seats since they are the only ones left. I watched as she came closer and then noted that she looked down. What I couldn’t see—because of the seats in front of me—were three small children. Really small. Oh boy.
Now you need to know that I love children. I had been that teenager who babysat everyone in the neighborhood. I enjoyed playing with kids, teaching them things and being goofy. But this little mini-vacation was my respite from mom-hood. Just for a few days. Well, until the five-person troop made it to back of the plane and my empty four seats. At that moment everything changed.
Mom, somewhat constricted by the aisle and the baby resting on her chest, was trying to coax the set of two-year old twins into their seats. The four year-old wasn’t happy with his seat selection and decided not to sit down. Then there was the luggage. She was trying to nudge her tote bag in the overhead bin after giving up on the four-year old. It wasn’t working. The three mobile children each had a bag from McDonald’s that I had assumed they were going to eat during the flight. Each child also had their own backpack, filled with toys to occupy them. Five minutes before we were to take off the food was either gone or being eaten off the floor and the toys were everywhere. And the older one was explaining how he was bored. And one had to go to the bathroom. I looked up and smiled at her. Then I asked her if she could use hand. She gave me a look of both desperation and relief. She immediately unstrapped the baby, handed him to me, and said, “Thank you so much.” The rest was a whirlwind. For the three-plus hours that it took to get to Marco Island, Florida, we tag-teamed like professionals mothers. I fed and burped the baby while playing a lacing-card game with one of the twins. When someone wanted to walk up and down the aisle, I would watch the others. I sat in conversation about Elmo, Big Bird and the merits of living in a garbage can as Oscar the Grouch did. We giggled at videos and played with stuffed animals. My husband helped out as the emergency bathroom trips frequently came up, entertaining whichever child was near with silly songs and stories. The baby even fell asleep in my arms. The flight attendants continued to check on us to be sure “mom” was doing o.k. She was doing fine. We were a team.
Never has flight gone so quickly. When arrived in Florida and pulled up to the gate, the flight attendants came over and thanked us for our help. And it was only then that I realized I had never even known the name of this mom. I quickly introduced myself before we got up to exit the plane. She returned the introduction and explained that her husband had flown down earlier in the week for work and she was meeting him at the airport. She knew it would be a lot to fly with four children all age four and under. But she was determined to do so. Jon and I helped her get everything picked up and her luggage out of the overhead bins and walked with her and the kids out of the plane. When she got to the front of the plane the attendants asked how it went and she said, “It was fine. But she didn’t know what she would have done if it weren’t for Kari.” I was a few steps behind her and heard this.
When we got to the hotel that night I thought a lot about the craziness of the flight. I smiled when I sat down on our hotel bed and opened my magazine to page three…a page a never had a chance to get to during the flight. It made me feel good, but more importantly it made me realize that it isn’t about me. It’s about God putting us where we are most needed. He knows.
Kari Snyder is the Senior Adult Program Coordinator at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, MN