On a flight from Raleigh to Hartford I sat with my 10-year-old son and listened to him ramble on for almost 90 minutes. It was beautiful, at times incoherent, but beautiful. If he’s where the world is going, I’m in. Two rows up from us in an aisle seat was a little old lady. She looked lived in, hunched over; her hair dyed red, frail but stable, wearing a Yankees ball cap and chewing a piece of gum. Midway through the flight she turned to both of us and then looked my son straight in the eye. With her right index finger gently tapping the side of her head, she said this:
“Your fathers a smart man”
And with that, she abruptly turned back around.
I was puzzled. Why did that happen? Why did she do that? Did she really think I was smart? Do I look smart? Is it the glasses? Could she hear what Max and I were talking about earlier? Had I said something smart? That’s a lot of pressure to put on me! Now my son thinks I’m smart. What if I’m not? Hey lady, knock that shit off, it’s hard enough being a parent without the expectation from your kids that you might actually know what you’re doing.
Perhaps it isn’t what she said, but what we heard. I’ve believed for a long time that people come in and out of our lives with purpose. You do the same to others. I’ve written a few things on this and simply put I think I needed that. Encouragement comes in clever doses sometimes. The real shame in these moments of impact would be not listening and not receiving the note.
A message for Max to remind him that his father, misguided at times, won’t lead him astray. Something she thought he needed to hear. For Dad, a reminder that maybe I am capable of more than I think. That I’ve already been given the skills needed to accomplish the goal, all that’s left is to start the journey.
An old lady with a baseball cap has generated a spark. Something tells me she knew exactly what she was doing.