We got back from Washington, D.C., and the 40th Annual March for Life, a few hours ago. Our flight was due to depart D.C. at 2:00; it was delayed, and we didn't get off the ground until about 3:30. Here's a photo of our tired crew waiting at Ronald Reagan National Airport.
The flight was extremely full and it was a chaotic and rushed boarding as the crew tried to recoup lost time. We had to divide ourselves as a family between the two sides of the aisle, one of which had two seats and one of which had three. Caitlin and Phillip took the two-seat side, and Evan and I took the three-seat side. There was already a young man sitting by the window, and Evan demurred at sitting by a stranger, so I took that seat and gave Evan the aisle seat. By this time, rather stressed by the boarding process, I looked at the young (20-ish) man by the window and mouthed a "Phew!" He smiled sympathetically and we struck up a conversation. He asked what had brought us to D.C. and said, "Cool" when I told him my husband had served as the musician for a Lutheran conference that was held in conjunction with the March for Life. He asked what sights we had seen and then volunteered that at this point in his life he was rather unimpressed with the nation's capital since it was his hometown and he had been going on field trips to all of the attractions for years. Further conversation revealed that he is currently studying video game design at Columbia College in Chicago. Well, that was all it took. I became invisible as Evan and our traveling companion proceeded to talk video games nonstop for the rest of the 1-1/2 hours we spent in the air. About ten minutes in I suggested that Evan and I trade places, a move which afforded me a good hour's worth of personal time for reading, prayer ("Please, God, let us land in one piece") and reflection. Evan's new friend pulled out his computer and shared one of his current school projects, showing my budding game designer what is actually involved in working with a team of people to create a video game, from conception to planning to writing code to testing and I'm not sure what else. He was impressed that Evan has designed his own video and board games on paper and encouraged him to keep doing so. He kindly listened to and encouraged my son's nine-year-old thoughts delivered in nine-year-old fashion. About halfway through the flight the lady sitting directly in front of me turned around and smiled: "You hit the jackpot, Mom." It turned out she was a retired third grade teacher and was so impressed with Evan's knowledge and conversational skill that she asked whether he was in the Gifted and Talented program in school. When I told her we homeschool she nodded and said, "Good for you." With an bit of an eye roll she said she used to be one of those "evil Chicago teachers." I noticed that the friend she was traveling with was wearing an "I regret my abortion" button.
As I think back on the day I find myself picturing God sitting up in heaven grinning at the dots that got connected on this flight. A young video game designer in the seat next to me? A former third grade teacher (Evan is in third grade) in the seat in front of me? And to think that during the last 30 minutes or so before we boarded I was beginning to have pretty serious anxiety as I imagined everything that could possibly go wrong with our flight, in spite of having taken the anti-anxiety medication my doctor prescribes to help me deal with my fear of flying. Instead, a more tolerable--nay, perfect--flight I could not have conjured. My one regret is that we will probably never see that young man again, and I was not bold enough to ask for his contact information. I think I will wonder in years to come what became of him--whether he succeeded in his chosen field and whether that success earned the approval that he said his father was only starting to show signs of granting his vocational choice. One thing I know: whether Evan ends up clinging to or letting go of his video game designing goals, I will always be thankful for a young man in the seventeenth row who took the time to listen to a nine-year-old's dream.