The Window Seat

I don’t mind commercial flights if I have a window seat. Booking one isn’t usually a problem for small twin-prop puddle-jumpers, but getting one on larger aircraft has been hit-and-miss. Years ago I took a trip to South Carolina to attend a training session. I struck out on three of four legs for the round-trip flight. I had aisle seats on the puddle-jumpers and the jet from Philadelphia to South Carolina. Somehow I landed a window seat on the flight back to Philadelphia, and a very good seat it was, being not over the wing. I would be able to watch the countryside sliding beneath me like a tapestry being slowly pulled by an invisible hand.

The morning after training I boarded my flight and my perfect window seat was waiting. The airliner was filling rapidly, and minutes before takeoff only two aisle seats remained: the one next to me and another forward and across the aisle, where the window seat was held by a man the size and build of a Sumo wrestler.

At the last moment, a flurry of activity at the front of the cabin! A young woman and her son, a boy of perhaps eight or ten years of age, entered the aisle with the flight attendant, who seated the mother next to the man mountain. The attendant took the hand of the boy, his eyes brimming with tears, and headed my way. The mother, now crying as well, looked back from her seat as her child reached my row.

“Have a seat with this nice man and I’ll buckle you in,” the attendant said softly.

A voice rang out: “This won’t do.”

It surprised me, because the voice was mine.

I stood and gave the boy my window seat. “You’ll like it,” I said to him. “It’s like a magic carpet ride, and the whole world is at your feet.”

I asked the attendant to bring the mother back to the aisle seat while I walked forward to take hers. I couldn’t look out the window on the flight. I couldn’t even see the window: my view was the well-tailored suit of my amiable and massive seatmate.

I’ve never forgotten what that day taught me: each of us can make small positive differences that ripple across humanity. For that mother and child on that particular day, I made all the difference in the world. I’ve wondered at times how far across humanity that small ripple will travel. For, you see, it travels still with every word you’ve just read. So, my friend, use every day to make a little ripple of your own. Make a difference.

James is a bilateral cochlear implant recipient/advocate and a hopeless chicken wing addict. He is also a prostate cancer survivor and warrior. He passionately believes we can all make a positive difference. His shoe size is 10 1/2.