So Kim Davis was just freed from jail to cheers, nonstop news coverage, a smiling teary eyed presidential candidate in Mike Huckabee, anti-gay posters, crosses raised on sticks, and even Eye of the Tiger being blasted on speakers. Up to this point I haven't really talked too much about the issue publicly. Not that anyone has been begging for my opinion, but as Kentuckian and more importantly as someone who professes to try to follow the example of the life of Christ, I thought I’d weigh in.
Recently my wife Sandra and I had the pleasure of taking a cross country flight from Denver to Tennessee. When we boarded the plane everything was pretty standard to previous flights we had taken. Because I checked us in late as usual we were boarding in group four and were among the last to get on the plane. We inched down the aisle to our seats as passengers politely smashed their carry-on bags in to other people’s carry-on bags in the overhead compartments. We sat down in our seats and prepared for our normal mental journey of nervousness during take-off, restless anxiousness during the flight, nervousness during landing, and then finally peace once we land. Unfortunately, on this particular flight the part I liked best, the peace when we landed, would be rudely interrupted by a pretty epic blowout airplane fight.
Almost as soon as we began to take off, immediately after our pre-flight I hope we make it prayer, a baby started crying. Okay, crying probably isn’t a fair assessment, he was wailing. Wailing like taking this flight was the worst thing that ever happened to him. Being that he was still an infant I’d say that it was in fact the worst thing that ever happened to him. I said to Sandra “poor little guy, I feel so bad for him.” After all, I knew exactly what was going on and I wasn’t thrilled about flying. I couldn’t imagine how he felt. I don’t have kids, which also means I’ve never had a baby, but I found myself wanting to somehow make it better for him.
Right after I expressed how bad I felt for our tiny crier, the middle aged woman behind me expressed how she felt loud enough for the entire plane to hear. “Shut that baby up, I have to work when we land and I’d like to get some rest.” Her traveling companions, another middle aged women and a large burly overall wearing man shared a laugh with her while the rest of us in the surrounding seats shared a variety of reactions ranging from head shaking in disbelief to mouths opened in a shocked expression of “did she really just scream at a crying baby?”
I guess the baby wasn’t too bothered by it because as we continued to climb, he continued to cry. Encouraged by the laughs of her equally unsympathetic row mates the women made a bunch more uncaring attacks on the baby and her family. Some of which included “You shouldn’t bring a crying baby on a plane” “Just shut the hell up” “I didn’t pay hundreds of dollars for a flight to hear your baby cry”. With every new idiotic and insensitive statement she made I grew increasingly angrier. As I said, I don’t have kids, but I have lots of nieces, nephews and friends with kids. For some reason I was taking this really personally. I just couldn’t understand how an adult might not able to give a little break to an infant. Finally though as we reached our cruising altitude the baby calmed down, stopped crying, and the women behind me stopped her rant…temporarily.
Shortly after the “it’s safe to take off your seat belt” announcement had been made, I had an opportunity to look around the plane. When I looked around to peek at the baby and his family I discovered a fact that would have made me even madder had I been aware of it at the beginning of the flight. The baby was accompanied by only his mom who was cradling him in her arms. There was no dad, boyfriend, sister, friend, or sibling etc. to help on the flight. I obviously have no idea what her situation was other than she was flying with a sweet baby who was having a difficult flight all by herself. For the moment the baby was asleep and the rude lady seemed to be minding her own business. I didn’t hear a peep from either of them until our final descent. That’s when my little friend started crying again and Big Mouth seemed ready for her encore. I’m not a scientist, but guessed at this point the baby was experiencing painful pressure during take-off and landing which made me feel even worse for him and more irate at this lady.
The comments she was making now were just more of the same from before. No new insults or original take on how important it was for to have an uninterrupted flight. Just the same selfish babbling from a bully. I couldn’t believe nobody was saying anything to her. Wait, I wasn’t saying anything either.
We landed safely, but the baby was still crying. Meany was still spouting and I honestly couldn’t tell you what she said, because my blood had past simmering and was at a slow boil. I looked over at my wife and said “do not let me lose it on this lady. I don’t want to get in trouble, but I can’t take much more” We were taxiing now and surely she would just let it rest.
However, one more cry lead to one more attack on the silent mother and her baby which lead to my flash boil. I stood up and responded with “Would you please let it rest! You have no idea how difficult it would be to be in that mom’s shoes. Do you think for one second she wanted her baby crying or struggling during the flight? Do you think her day hasn’t been rough enough already?” I took a breath because I realized I had asked her a bunch of questions, although I think many of them were rhetorical and intended for everyone on the plane to consider. She barked back “The kid wouldn’t shut up! What would you suggest?” It was difficult for me to respond because I was trying to balance letting this woman know how awful I personally thought she was with actually trying to get through to her for some reason. I wanted to exercise the same grace I had hoped she would have extended on the baby. I didn’t know what her journey had been her that day and why she was so terrible. Maybe there was a reason she was especially on edge. Maybe it wasn’t simply a matter of someone being incredibly cruel.
I told her “I would try to exercise compassion because I realize she’s going through a lot. She’s not a parent failing to discipline a bad kid. She’s a mom doing the best she can.” I’m not sure if I really thought this would make sense to her, but she was quick to point out that it didn’t. “Well, I don’t care about her and I don’t care about you. I’m entitled to my opinion and if I want to tell her about it I will!” Oh man, I was bordering on losing it. “You are entitled to your opinion, and your opinion is awful and cruel and heartless.” I stopped myself. I realized I was about to unleash a tirade of epic proportion on this lady that I wouldn’t be proud of later. I could feel my teeth grinding and my eyes tightening in on her. I’m not sure, but I think fumes were coming out of my ears. The final thing she said directly to me was “well you’re entitled to your opinion and if I want to tell her to be quite I can.” Before I could say anything my wife stepped in and said “Well you’ve made it very clear to everyone that you hate kids. Now you can shut your mouth.” Sandra had simultaneously saved me from going past the edge and ultimately left this lady with nothing to say. She stumbled to respond and had some incoherent stunned response like “Um, well I uh am glad you got to be on t.v.”
Luckily when Meany McGee seemed to come to the end of her unintelligible argument her wonderfully huge and burly traveling companion piped in to add his awesome thoughts on the subject. He loudly piped in with “the problem with America is there are too a$holes.” Wow! This guy was completely right and wrong on many levels “You’re saying that people who stand up for the bullied are assholes? “People who try to encourage compassion are assholes? If that’s the case the problem might be there aren’t enough assholes.” Not gonna lie, I was ready to preach it right there. The guy came back with a louder version of his previous response, but also added “that’s why I moved to North Dakota.” He might of said it again after that, but I’m just not sure. The sensible part of me was saying “You’ve said enough, you’ve made you’re point, no more can be gained from arguing with this guy any more. There was also another side of me who was very close to starring in multiple YouTube Videos titled “Guy Beats of Bully on Plane”. Fortunately the under controlled version of me won out and was even nice enough to let the cage tiger version of me stare the guy down for a solid minute.
I’m not writing this blog because I want you to have some high opinion of me. It’s very possible that you think what I did was just as annoying as what they did. I also haven’t always done the right thing every time I’ve had an opportunity to. There are plenty of times I haven’t stood up when I should have. I also am not trying to portray myself as tough. Just to illustrate that point, I caught myself wishing I had the Justin Bieber Christmas CD in my car today. The guy on the plane may have very possibly kicked the crap out of me.
I’m writing this blog because I’m not certain if we have an A-hole problem in America, but we certainly have a compassion problem. This incident was just kind of an eye opener for me. If 200 people on a plane can’t take up for a woman traveling alone with a baby, who else won’t we stand up for? I’ve been increasingly frustrated that so many people struggle alone when there are so many of us who have the ability to lend a hand. What I did isn’t the only way to help people. Plane confrontations actually probably rank pretty low on the scale of things that will make a difference. But even the smallest thing you could do to make the world better will help as long as we’re trying. I’ve seen too much head turning because a person or group in need doesn’t look like us, isn’t the same color, doesn’t practice the same religion, or doesn’t share our beliefs about sexual orientation. There are too many things that divide us when we should be more united than ever. I can’t continue to keep my eyes shut and my mouth closed in the face of increasing injustice and a glaring lack of people helping people. I count myself among those who can do better and from here on out am going to find active ways to be a contributor to a kinder way of doing things. I get that this started out as a funny story and has now morphed into a full on rant, but I had to say it. So let’s collectively practice compassion even if we start small like when we’re on a plane or in traffic. I’ll specifically promise to practice it by cancelling my trip to North Dakota to visit Burly Beard to make good on that stare down.