A Thought from the Tarmac

The flight to Miami was uneventful.

Two 10-year-old boys flying alone boarded first. Luggage went in the overhead compartments. We lifted off the tarmac in New York. People thumbed through gossipy magazines. The flight attendants served pretzels.

The girl next to me listened to pop music while calm, wisped hunks of cloud drifted by outside the window. The 10-year-old boys who boarded first chuckled from the back of the plane.

And on it went for three hours as we moved through the air 39,000 feet above the surface of the earth.

People down below might have seen us. A little kid might have pointed up at us. Or maybe nobody did anything at all. We were just one of the 87,000 flights that drive through the sky on your average day.

We landed in Miami with a gentle thump. Immediately, we snapped our pens closed and folded up our magazines, took out phones to coordinate airport pickups. Onto the next thing we go.

But we got interrupted by a noise from the back of the plane. One of the 10-year-old kids was clapping, smacking his open palms together like the curtain had just dropped on an amazing show.

“MIAMI!” he called out to the plane, to the city itself. His voice was pitched with amazement. His torso was leaning over into the aisle and he was looking around at us, as if to say, “Whoa! Can you believe we made it, you guys?”

Had he never flown before? Had he never believed that he could be lifted off the tarmac and carried 1,100 miles across the earth’s surface? Or had he done it a hundred times and never forgotten how to be amazed by it?

I looked at the kid. He just shone, wearing amazement on his sleeve, pants, shoelaces. And it was the opposite of naiveté. It was wisdom, to live with nothing between you and amazement.

The kid smiled at me. I smiled back. And because of him, I put aside my phone, put aside all the other flights I’d flown before, put aside all the expectations and experiences that can push amazement so far below the surface.

And I had a thought I hadn’t had from the tarmac for some time: “That flight was a pretty amazing show.”

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