In the lives of my children, few joys exceed that of airport moving walkways. I was reminded of this last week when we flew home to North Dakota, after being out of state for a whopping three months. Giddy anticipation, they galloped through crowds—often dragging me along behind. Once at the edge, where they could see the conveyor belt moving along, they stopped short. Both eager to jump on, and a little afraid to step onto a floor-in-motion.
At that point I had caught up, and began to prod them forward. My, how the tables turn. “Carry me,” my youngest said. “Am I going to fall?” asked my first born.
“No, I cannot carry you,” I said to the first question, while gesturing at the large backpack on my shoulders and carry-on toted behind. “No, I don’t think you’re going to fall.” After that, it was pure bliss. Fellow travelers filled the terminal around us. Some moved faster, some slower. But there we were, all in the Minneapolis airport, together. All of us heading somewhere.
In mass, it’s easy to see people as one, big, nameless blob—often burdening us in some capacity. When in a crowd, it’s easy to think of yourself as an individual, while seeing everyone else as part of the herd in your way. As in, “Ugh, no one in this airport knows how to walk. I need to get to my gate and people keep stopping in the middle of the corridor.” Or, “Don’t these people know how to drive? I need to get to where I’m going.”
In the middle of a crowd, it’s simple to forget that we all have objectives. We’re all trying to get somewhere.
I know I forget sometimes.
In a crowd, I forget that we all have needs and wants. We all have people depending on us. We all have people we want to see, things that need to be done. I forget that there are probably lots of people with more important places to go than me. I forget that there are probably many with needs more pressing than my own, and stressors that weigh more than what I’m lugging.
In the midst of people, we can lose sight of the humanity.
Around our fifth moving sidewalk, the exhaustion of being awake since 4 am was starting to wear on me. For me, the joy of riding the walkway had started to lose its luster. We weren’t in a hurry, but I was ready to get to a place where I could sit down. Somewhere between the fatigue, noise, and twinge of a growing headache, the humanity around me started to become a lump of inconvenient people.
At that moment, footsteps approached from behind us on the walkway. A young pilot walked by, flashing a friendly smile toward my gleeful kids as he did. As he passed, I noticed his haircut. The back left section was choppy, while the rest of his head was in a fairly neat fade. The storyteller inside of me was immediately intrigued. What had gone wrong with that haircut? Had he done it himself alone, unable to get a good look at the back? Had his wife or girlfriend tried her hand at cutting hair? Maybe his own preschool child bumped into him while he was using the clippers.
That bad haircut reminded me that people are more than just “all those people.” They are individuals. Each going somewhere. Each carrying their own worries and hopes. Each walking around with their own stories, their own mistakes and accomplishments. In the airport, headed for connecting flights, we are all on our way to someplace else—none of us are from around here.
At this time of year, while we each pursue our own brand of “Christmas wonder,” let’s not fall into the trap of viewing fellow humans as burdens or obstacles. Rather, let’s be struck by the small things. Let’s live in awe of humanity’s ability to be both incredibly diverse, while also sharing deep commonality. Let’s view each congested mall, highway, airport, and coffee shop as a place filled with individuals, each with a story, each trying—just like us—to get where they’re going.
For more stories of positive living, and life in Hot Dish Land join me on Instagram (@amy_allender), Facebook (@amyallenderblog), or amyallender.com.