The six kids are spread out around me on the plane.
They wear blue soccer jerseys with yellow writing – UKRAINE – and they don’t speak much English. I’d guess they’re between eight and 11 years old.
The flight attendant, who has a big, grinning face, doesn’t speak a word of Ukrainian. But he sees that their chaperone is sitting way far up in the plane. So, with gestures and nods, he helps the kids find their seats, lets them switch their seats so they can sit together, then disappears.
When he comes back down the aisle, he stops at the kids and asks in a big, warm voice, “Dobre?!” (Which means “good” in Ukrainian.) He might have heard the kids say it. He might have looked it up. But the kids turn to him, surprised, and nod with these half grins, “Yeah. Dobre!”
From where I sit, I can only see one of the kids. He’s about 11, chatty, at ease flying, probably done it plenty. And he loves his phone, can’t stop bopping around on it and won’t let anyone touch it, like it’s sacred.
Regularly, the flight attendant checks in on the kids. “Dobre?!” “Yeah. Dobre!” When the chatty kid mimes a plane landing, the flight attendant takes out his phone and shows the kid in numbers how much time is left.
So now the flight’s almost done. And the flight attendant brings the kids stickers. They’re unremarkable: black and white with a drawing of an airplane.
The chatty kid looks at the sticker. He peels the backing off. I expect he’ll put it on the tray table or the seat or the inflight magazine.
But he doesn’t. He puts the sticker on the back of his phone, this sacred object that he loves and won’t let anyone touch.
If I’d given this well-traveled kid some unremarkable airplane sticker, no way would he have put it on the back of his phone. But it came from this flight attendant, who’d spent maybe 15 minutes with the kids. Which was all the time he needed to let them know he cared about them.
So it makes me think that if we want to have an impact, if we want to put our ordinary moments to extraordinary use, we need only care. For our time, yes, and for those we encounter in it.