Focus on the goodness and inspiration of others

Visiting our daughter and her family in central Florida means flying into Orlando. With Disney World as the primary destination, followed by Sea World, Epcot Center and Universal Studios, it’s no surprise that the plane is populated with as many children as adults.

While some might be annoyed by the presence of so many children contained in a small space, I find it entertaining. Watching parents trying to manage the excitement of their young charges made last month’s 90-minute flight from Norfolk pass quickly.

Seated amid the adventure bound travelers was a family that quickly captivated my attention. The couple was traveling with three children, all under the age of four, plus a dog. Although such an excursion would be a formidable challenge for most people, this couple was not only up to the task, they executed it perfectly.

Dad had the youngest child, who looked to be about 15 months old, strapped in an infant carrier to the front of his torso. In the seat behind him was Mom, who played peek-a-boo almost non-stop throughout the flight, interrupted only when the toddler caught the attention of another passenger by waving and saying “Hi” again and again. Smiles erupted all around, making the flight enjoyable for all.

Sitting next to Mom were the two children who looked to be about three and four years old. With eyes glued to their shared iPod, they were entertained by — what else? — a Disney film.

Mom confessed that the children were not allowed to watch television at home, which made watching a movie while traveling a special treat. Amid passing a bag of Cheerios while making sure no one spilled their drinks, Mom and Dad never lost their cool. But the real show-stopper came when we deplaned.

Dad took all three children, the youngest remained strapped to his body, another in a stroller and the third child on a contraption, the likes of which I’d never seen. Hitched to the back of the stroller was what looked like the back of a tricycle that allowed the middle child to stand while being pulled by the stroller.

If you’re wondering where Mom was while Dad was heading through the terminal with three children in tow, you can rest easy, as she was executing the other part of the plan. With Rover in tow, Mom was heading to the nearest doggy station for the pooch to do his business. From my vantage point, not one tear, threat or cross look spoiled the made-for-television scenario, and I was intrigued.

When our paths headed in different directions, I was sorry to lose sight of them. I would’ve loved to have a chat with the couple to learn how they acquired such amazing parenting skills.

In retrospect, it seems to me that the patience, planning and kindness of these parents didn’t just happen. It came with effort, forethought and a willingness to counter what have become cultural norms.

The importance of teamwork, thoughtfulness and postponing gratification are lessons that are caught more than are taught. While limiting television and computer time requires active participation — and parental involvement — the payoff is priceless.

As a mother of five children and a grandmother of six, I understand how difficult it is to maintain a countercultural position, but I also know that we can learn from one another. With so much focus on negatives, like name calling, bullying and individualism, it’s refreshing to encounter people whose behavior inspires rather than condemns.

There’s much to be learned from the so called “silent majority,” which makes people watching a more accurate reflection of society than anything we see on television. I’m sure this quite ordinary but charming family had no idea how they inspired the people around them.

No wonder Jesus spent most of his time with ordinary people. He saw their goodness, gave them hope and contributed to their sense of wholeness. It’s what being pro-life is about.

Throughout this year, we do well to look to the people in our midst who inspire rather than condemn, praise rather than judge.

During his inaugural speech, Nelson Mandela said, “When I let my light shine, I give others permission to do the same.”

May we all take to heart the words of the song, “This Little Light of Mine,” and “let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

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