Have You Ever Wondered What Story the Stranger Sitting Next to You on a Flight has to Tell?

On a recent flight from Denver to Atlanta, Jase (my oldest) and I chose seats at the back of the plane. In front of us was a dad with two tiny girls. I would later find out that they were both under the age of 2. He was flying alone, with them, from Mexico to Atlanta. His wife, who was 9 months pregnant with their 3rd child, a boy, had taken an emergency flight out of a small village in Mexico 2 days earlier. They are Jewish missionaries living there, with no extended family. He was making the best of a difficult situation and trying to reunite with his wife. This dad was so patient the entire flight. Trust me when I say he had his hands FULL! Those two beautiful babies were NOT quiet travelers.

Near the end of our 3-hour flight, I felt something moving against my leg. What? I looked down and saw the butt and legs of the baby disappearing under our row of seats. I was on the aisle seat and she was on all fours and squeezing herself between my right leg and Jase’s left leg. She had escaped her daddy and was on the move! Can you imagine our shock?

I also saw the humor in it right away!

I jumped up, put my hand on the kind giant’s knee behind me, and said, “don’t move your feet, there’s a baby under there.” He looked down, quickly glanced back up at me with his eyes huge in disbelief and said, “There really is a baby down there!” I couldn’t help but smile! Oh, and about this giant…seriously, he had to be close to 7 feet tall and looked strong as an ox! He looked so uncomfortable in that small plane seat but he never complained!

Back to the baby…she was trying to disappear under this giant man’s seat but was tangled in the long cord attached to his device. It took some work, but we got her untangled and off the floor before she could disappear to the next row back. In the process we managed to infuriate her which alerted everyone on the rows around us that there was a baby on the loose. The look of amazement on this gentle giant’s face as he handed her to me was priceless! He said, “Well, that was a first!” I couldn’t help but laugh. Even the flight attendants said that was a first for them as well.

Her daddy waited patiently in his seat, with the other squirming child, for me to hand the little infuriated escapee back to him.  He just smiled kindly and spoke softly to his screaming child.

Once the plane landed the dad worked calmly and slowly to get their belongings together and get two fussy little ones off the plane. Maybe he was exhausted or maybe he was dreading this next little leg of their journey. Maybe he was simply that calm and patient!

Everyone else had already left the plane but I was holding back, wondering if I should offer to help, and feeling like I couldn’t just walk off. Jase saw the uncertainty on my face, smiled and walked on ahead of me to take care of something else. He would be waiting on me just up ahead. I decided to leave the plane but half way up the ramp I stopped and turned around. I could hear the babies fussing as he made his way toward the plane’s exit. Suddenly a flight attendant stepped off the plane, looked at me, and accusingly asked if I was his wife. Oh, my word! I found it hilarious. She was about to fuss at me for not helping him with the babies! With a grin assured her I was not his wife but wondered if he needed help. “YES, he does!” she almost yelled at me. Then she recognized me and said, “Oh, you’re the one who captured the baby earlier.” I just smiled and moved forward to take a baby, or two, while the dad wrestled with their bags. She rolled her eyes, in true southern drawn-out diction mumbled, “Lord” and seemed a little frustrated that this situation was taking place.

In stepping off the plane it was discovered that his double stroller had been sent to baggage claim. Really? It was supposed to be waiting on him right here. Baggage claim is lots of walking, several escalators and a long train ride away. How was he supposed to get two exhausted squirmy babies and his carry-on bags all that way? Well, because I was going to help…and so was Jase. Not even the pilot, or a single flight attendant, offered to help. They apologized for the stroller mix up, wished us luck and then left together to make their way out of the airport. In hindsight I wish I had had a way to photograph our little group as we made our way through the airport. Or at least get a photo of my sweet Jase loaded down with everyone’s luggage! He had his big hiking backpack on, my two bags thrown over his shoulder, and two of the dad’s pieces! The dad had the oldest, calmest child and their third bag and I had the fretful, squirmy, distraught baby in my arms.

Can you imagine my husbands surprise when we FINALLY emerged from the depths of the train tunnels? He and Raine were standing there waiting patiently, a little concerned because there was literally no one else around. It was a late flight so there were not many people in the usually crowded airport to begin with, and everyone else from our flight had passed this point quite a while ago. They were wondering where Jase and I were and if something was wrong. Then, suddenly we emerge, rising slowly on the long escalator, with Jase buried under a mound of luggage and me holding a baby! What a funny scenario! They looked surprised, and a little confused, for half a second but then sprang into action. They ran around the metal gates and relieved Jase of luggage while asking what they could do to help me.

Jason later said, “For a second I was so confused but then immediately knew what you had done.” I rarely pass up an opportunity to help someone but had never thought of it until Jason said that. I guess I’m predictable.

The dad was so trusting of us with his baby. He was walking ahead of us with the older child but as soon as we got to baggage claim he sat her down and disappeared to locate their stroller. Jason looked at me with huge eyes and a comical yet terrified look on his face. He couldn’t believe we had been left, without a word, with this mans babies. The daddy in him kicked in quickly though and he began working to keep the tiny girl, who had been left at his feet, from toddling off.

It occurred to me that the little one in my care seemed not only exhausted but distraught in another way. Realizing that I had not seen him give her a bottle on the entire flight, I asked for one as soon as he reappeared. Right away he made her a bottle out of powder and water and she took it like a starving child! She just leaned back in my arms, half closed her arms and relaxed as she drank her bottle. Bless her! She was hungry!

She had been happy most of the time in my arms, except she hated the train and screamed the entire time it was moving. I’m talking red face, huge tears, blow in her face to make her catch her breath kind of scream. Her daddy had tried holding her during part of the train ride but quickly handed her back to me as he wasn’t sure how to calm her. His relief was so evident when I took her back that I had to hide a smile. She calmed every time the train stopped but screamed again as soon as it took off. Now, as she lay in my arms, with her big beautiful brown eyes watching my face, so trusting and relaxed, I said a little prayer of thanks that we were the ones “in the right place at the right time” so that no harm came to these babies as their daddy did the best he could.

I’m not sure how long it took for him to locate their stroller, but it seemed like forever. We knew nothing else to do but stay in the same spot with his babies, so he could easily come back to us. Once he had his stroller and we got them all strapped in we told him good luck and went our separate ways. Before walking away, I asked if he needed help finding his ride, or getting anywhere else. He said he didn’t even know if he had a ride or who was picking him up. Goodness! I said a little prayer as we walked away for this daddy, who was truly trying but was clearly not use to overseeing his two little ones.

I had a little smile in my heart though because I knew God had put me exactly where I needed to be on that flight. He had put me in the seat behind the people he needed me to pay attention to. In one afternoon I had been reunited with Jase and we had flown to reunite with Jason and Raine. That alone was enough to make my heart very happy. And in all of that the four of us had joined together, with no verbal plan or discussion, to help a dad of two beautiful babies who was struggling. He had concern for his wife and had no idea if his son had been born yet or if they were even okay. To relieve him of a little bit of a burden, even if only for an hour, was a blessing to me and we had all done it together. My family had jumped right in without a word, or a question, and helped a stranger in need. That makes my heart beyond full.

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