If the Other 90% Had Lived
“Excuse me!” Her voice was taut and demanding, causing me to start uncomfortably.
“Oh,” I heard myself say as I jumped to my feet and out of the aisle seat.
“Excuse me!” she barked at the woman occupying the middle seat who’d been engrossed with her iPad and was now putting it in the seat pocket in front of her.
“Excuse ME!” she almost shouted for the third time.
“Give me just a second; I’m moving.”
“Well if you’d acknowledge that I’m speaking to you, it would help things greatly.” Her voice was pure acid and the muscles in my neck and back bunched into an instant knot.
Such rudeness – and for what? I asked myself as I glanced around at the shocked faces of the other passengers.
Soon the three of us sat in row 27 – not speaking. Arms tucked in tightly, the two of us in Seats A and B did not want to give Seat C a reason to explode into another tirade.
Seat B, or iPad gal as I was now mentally calling her, had pulled her computer back out and was typing with one finger while she shielded the screen with her free hand from angry woman.
Knowing I shouldn’t read over her shoulder, I did it anyway. I had to see what she was writing. “Real witch in the seat next to me…I want to kill her…so rude!”
I sat as still as possible not wanting to accidently jostle anybody. The words, “I want to kill her,” were still burning my eyeballs, and the distinct feeling that this flight was not going to end well was niggling at my insides. Then it happened. I heard the door click shut at the front of the plane. You’re a survivor, I told myself. Just be silent and keep to yourself. The flight’s only two hours long.
Something caught my attention, and I looked up in time to see a stocky little man with stubby fingers, thick eyelids, and a ball cap placed firmly on his head hurrying down the aisle.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he apologized a little too loudly to the men who had to move out of his way in the row behind me. “Thank you, thank you very much!”
“What’s your name?” he asked as his seatbelt clicked into place. And then a steady stream of introductions, destinations, questions about US Citizenship, credit cards, cell phones, the drink cart, and children flowed from the window seat behind me; and like everyone else within earshot, I strained backwards to hear it all.
Within seconds of his arrival, the entire section of the plane had relaxed. Stiff shoulders loosened and sank into comfortable positions, smiles played across faces that seconds before had been strained with anxiety; and most amazing of all, the angry woman in seat C turned around to interject something pleasant.
“When do we get something to drink?” our new friend wanted to know.
“Well, the airplane has to take off, then we’ll fly for about 20 minutes, and then someone will come by with a drink cart,” replied the guy sitting beside him.
“Oh, thank you; thank you very much!” was his response. “That’s very good information.”
Soon it became apparent that he was very interested in credit cards and favored Chase as the one he’d like to have. “How many credit cards do you have?” he asked.
“Hmm, maybe five.”
“Oh, thank you very much. Shouldn’t ask that question. Not nice to ask that question – too personal.”
I was smiling from ear to ear, I could almost hear his parents and siblings telling him, “DO NOT ask people about their credit cards!”
When he finally got his Coke, he predictably said, “Thank you! Thank you very much” and then added, “Very good service here.”
The two hour flight was a delight, and I marveled at this man, who in the briefest amount of time had changed a charged environment into one of harmony.
I wished I’d been the lucky one to sit beside him; but I knew that was pure selfishness. How greedy could I be? I’m already part of a family that God looked at and said, “I’m going to trust you with somebody truly special. It might mean a little extra work and definitely a change in your plans; but you’ll see; he’s going to transform your lives in an extraordinary way!”
Our Berkeley has done that for us. We did not know some 30 plus years ago that we needed Berkeley, but God did, and when He created him, He made Berk just the way he wanted him to be. Berkeley continues to be, much like the man on my recent airplane ride, someone who brings joy and happiness to everyone he meets.
Each time I hear that 90% of all Down Syndrome babies are aborted, I feel my heart breaking; and I wonder, What conflicts might have been avoided if only those other 90% had been allowed to live?
I never caught the man’s name, but he was traveling to Beijing by himself and was fluent in Chinese as well as English. As I’ve told this story, people have expressed amazement that he is able to function at such a high level. To me, however, the true story is about a plane full of angry people who couldn’t stop smiling once he boarded.