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If the Other 90% Had Lived

October 20, 2011

“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

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.

God knew exactly what He was doing.  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 NIV

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.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2011 4:16 pm

    What a great story! I so enjoy your words of enlightenment and encouragement.

    • October 21, 2011 6:16 pm

      Thank you, Anna! I always pray that my stories will be meaningful to someone.

  2. October 21, 2011 9:17 pm

    Laura, Thank you for this story. ‘Lightened my load to think about all the incredible people that have changed my life, who happen to have those same little fingers and magical features and personalities that have made me smile again and again. And, yes, they’ve changed my life, too.

    [But it makes me so sad that so many people lose their lives because they will be born with Down Syndrome. All my friends who have Downs are incredibly sensitive, affectionate people who happen to have the most amazing comedic timing. I have been most blessed.]

    • October 21, 2011 9:44 pm

      Mari, thank you! This story was special for me because I didn’t know anybody on that plane. Nobody knew that I had a brother with Down Syndrome; so they weren’t behaving differently. Warmed my heart to see how kind everybody was to this man and how much joy he spread. Made me realize why Berkeley is a favorite at work, church, and almost everywhere he goes.

  3. Tara Walker permalink
    October 23, 2011 4:44 pm

    Laura! GREAT story!
    Currently in my discipleship group we’re talking about having a biblical world view. Just this week we are discussing the sanctity of human life. As you know, the sanctity of human life entails MUCH more than just NOT killing people – it’s also defending life of all kinds. One of our many scriptures this week is the one you quoted – of course it made me cry when I read it in your blog 🙂 Placing high value on life is a result of realizing we are created in God’s image and He makes us all with a purpose!
    I am going to read your blog to my ladies as the perfect example of how we are commanded to defend and help those who cannot always help themselves – the poor, the needy, the widows, orphans, and those with physical/mental challenges. And not just help these people – to place value on their lives as we would anyone else.
    I hope to someday meet Berkley. He sounds awesome!

    • October 23, 2011 8:48 pm

      Tara, thank you for taking the time to share this with me! I always pray that my writings will be meaningful if even only to one person.

      When talking about Berkeley, and quite frankly myself, I often quote Psalm 100:3. “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” This verse is of course in direct relation to the Isrealites, but I feel that it applies to us today. I sometimes find myself wishing that I was more talented in an area or that I could change something about myself, but God made me the way He wanted me to be.

      I have a fantastic story about how Berkeley touched thousands of people even though he struggles to speak and can barely, barely read. (A story for another day) Remembering that particular event always reminds me that it is God working through us and has nothing to do with how amazing we are or are not. 🙂 God delights in using our weakness to further His plan.

      I would LOVE to introduce you to Berkeley.

      • Tara Walker permalink
        October 25, 2011 4:53 pm

        Just wanted you to know that I shared this with my group. They loved it 🙂 Of course they jokingly gave me grief for making them all cry 🙂

      • October 25, 2011 6:12 pm

        LOL! You know that writers love to make people cry. 🙂

  4. Tara Walker permalink
    October 26, 2011 8:49 pm

    Hahahhah…. so true! 🙂

  5. November 1, 2011 5:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, Laura. We are so thankful that Berkeley is our cousin! We just wish we lived closer to all of you. 🙂

    • November 1, 2011 8:04 pm

      Thank you, Sara, for your kinds words! I watch how Berkeley interacts with people and lifts their spirits. It’s not just because he’s cute but because he genuinely cares about people, and that’s why I think he is such a beautiful person.

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