File under: Lessons learned from Complete Strangers. So I'm traveling today, thus spending time in airports. Airports are an interesting observatory in humanity. I notice a four-year-old Purple Princess with bouncing curls. She and her 6'3" Tackle, aka, Prince Charming, aka Daddy, are obviously on some Grand Adventure. As Dad stops post-security-check to put his shoes and belt back on, Princess Adorable hops up on the bench behind him and lays on his back to give him a hug that only spans half his girth but all his heart. Her joy is infectious and Prince Charming melts with a smile. Then she hops down, twirls two spins, and starts tugging on the boring black backpack beside her Prince. Obviously, she is eager to begin, and very soon they are headed down the expansive hallway of this airport, a tiny hand tucked inside a hamfisted but delicate grip. Prince Charming lumbers along while Princess Adorable twirls around and around as she walks, her purple skirt spinning like a flower that opens and closes with each twirl. I wonder why adults don't spin and twirl down airport hallways . . .
I notice the young couple with an infant and a two year old in a double stroller. They've been delayed due to a terrible car crash that closed the road they took to the airport. Now, rebooked but eternally delayed ("eternal" takes on new definitions where waiting with young children is involved), Mom and Dad are trying desperately to keep both children fed, occupied, and reasonably happy. The Silly Faces Game with Dad soon has Miss Two Year Old hugging her limp-well-loved white stuffed doggy and all is well. I notice passersby smiling at the little girl and her well-worn toy.
And I wonder when adult security blankets transition from stuffed animals to cell phones, jewelry, status shoes and clothing. Is that man's chic Italian brief case really "better" than this man's designer-brand backpack? And why do we compete for "coolest" or "most successful" anyway? And when did we learn to be so damn competitive?
And so uselessly "grown up"?
No little girl wants to grow up to be the grotesquely obese woman who can barely waddle down the jetway - her feet so dreadfully corpulent my spirit weeps for her obvious pain. No little boy asks to grow up to be so over-pressured with work he is now merely thirtysomething yet his spine is permanently hunched over due to so many, many hours at a desk or computer.
I pause to watch the shoe-shine lady as she scans the crowds, desperately hoping that one person will stop to get their shoes shined. Shoe shine booths thrive off of appearing busy - one person stops, then another, then another . . . The first customer is so vital to a successful day if you're a shoe shine lady.
My shoes are not old, and don't really need a shine, but I decide to start an adult game. I am too "grown up" to have true COURAGE. If I had real courage - the courage Leeda McCullough still has - I would stop right here in this airport, turn up my iPhone with the Cupid Shuffle playing and entice those around me to pause being adults long enough to dance for three minutes - together - one united tribe of happy humanity; strangers sharing an insanely fun moment in time together. And if I had even MORE courage - I would play something completely unscripted, Pharrell's "Happy" or Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" and we would all move as we wish in a human dance symphony of joy.
Why do we only bond as strangers in times of crisis?
But I am an adult. I know fear. The fear of ridicule. The fear of being thought "weird." This fear is a learned thing. A terrible, awful, dreadful thing. But I am an exceptionally successful student on this topic of fear. Pathetically fearful me; no impromptu line dance today. I choose an adult game. I go to visit Patricia.
Patricia, the shoe shine lady, greets me with the desperate smile of relief that tells me she NEEDS my $7.00. Patricia is not flying anywhere today. The boots Patricia wears are clean but not expensive. Patricia is trying to pay her light bill, or buy gas for her car, or milk for her children. Patricia is cheerful and asks all the mundane questions appropriate for this game. "Where am I going? Do I travel often? Where is home?" She brings a deep glow back into my "I had no idea they SO needed a shine" shoes, and gently massages my feet as she buffs. Best $7.00 I've spent in a very long while. Patricia smiles. Another customer comes up right as we finish. Another round of her game - and another $7.00 - for Patricia. WOO HOO! I hope her shoe shine chair stays full all day as I walk away with my glowing shoes and happy feet.
The lady boarding this plane ahead of me is very tall. I only see her back, but she is a large lady - the type of large one cannot ignore. Her hair is bleached blonde with mouse brown roots, limp from overbleaching, yet she has teased it up to a three-inch-high rats' nest on top of her head. From behind, it looks ridiculously pathetic, and I find myself wondering who had the nerve to tell this once-little-girl that her lovely mouse-brown hair wasn't good enough?! Who took her purple princess skirt away and told her she was too tall - or too old - to twirl?! Why do we allow other humans to tell us - an equal human - we are not good enough?
The pudgy boy who became the portly man is good enough. The buck-toothed child who became the big-grin adult is good enough. The tall girl who became a large lady is good enough. The elder on the walker is good enough. The dude in dreads/creative little boy who hides behind his dirty clothes is good enough. The pushy executive/ worried little boy who hides behind his arrogance is good enough. The proud lady/self-conscious little girl hiding behind her designer clothes and snarky attitude is good enough. They are all little children who have grown up to learn fear.
We are - each and every one of us - good enough!
Maybe adults should stop growing up. Maybe we should look at each other as we did in kindergarten, when we were wiling to be friends with anyone who was nice back to us. We shared our crayons and we played together on the playground and never wondered about the fact that our friends were albino or in a wheelchair.
My prayer for all those under 20 is that you learn a lesson from my generation and earlier generations and simply refuse to grow up to the point where playing with others who are different from us is no longer acceptable. That's not really "growth" at all! It is retrograde from the fearlessness of youth.
My prayer for those of us over 20 is that we UNgrowup. Let's UNgrowup and re-learn the joy of an innocent spin and twirl in an airport. Let's smile at adults with the same joy with which we smile at children. Let's release all the FEAR and embrace the JOY of life!!
Walk through life like it's a playground! Smile at everyone and sow seeds of HAPPY!