A few weeks ago, I happened to be on a flight from Baltimore to Salt Lake City, during which I had the opportunity to sit next to a four-year-old boy named Finn.
It’s been a while since I flew with a child that age, but I have to admit, considering the length of the flight (almost 5 hours) this kid was amazingly patient, and extremely well behaved, but full of personality. We became fast friends, he and I.
Still, it was a long flight. And eventually, Finn got restless. His mother was prepared with things to keep him busy, but after a while, he grew tired of playing with those things and needed something more, something different.
Luckily, the writer sitting next to Finn happened to have a rainbow of colored critiquing pens in her bag, which he then used to draw beautiful art in her notebook. (Sadly, my recently acquired picture book was in my suitcase in the overhead bin.)
Finn’s gracious mother thanked me over and over for helping and for being patient with she and her children throughout the flight.
Here’s what she didn’t know.
I was very sad when I got on that plane, because of who I’d left behind. Not only that, but I was miserably sick (but not contagious) and missing my own family. That sweet little boy was a needed distraction, a sweet relief from my misery, and about the most interesting person I’ve met on any flight, ever.
We helped each other, Finn and me.
Most likely, I’ll never see that family again. But I wonder about them. How their trip went, what they did, how long they stayed. Also, I wonder what that boy’s life will be like in ten years, or twelve, when he’s old enough to read. Will he someday pick up one of my books and find himself inside it? (Or, you know, a character similar to him.)
Maybe he will. Maybe that four-year-old whose smile brightened a dreary day will someday become a storybook hero. Or at least a fan. Only time will tell.
And maybe someday, if I'm lucky, I'll have the opportunity to meet Finn again. If I do, I hope I can show him the artwork in my notebook that will always remind me of the little boy who once sat next to me on a plane.