An enforced wait in an airport lounge can be a salutary experience. For instance, there was the stubbornness of the toddler who, pulling a luggage trolley taller than herself, refused to accept help from her mother, even though merely turning the trolley so that the wheels rather than its colourful plastic touched the ground also made dragging the luggage considerably easier. Incipient cries turned to a broad grin when the child’s mother insisted on releasing the little girl’s tight grip of the handle. There are truly occasions when age lends wisdom to a complicated situation. Suddenly the toddler discovered that not only could she pull her case: she could even run.
A different sort of wisdom showed itself in one of the eating areas of the airport. A young man with Downs Syndrome proudly sported a uniform identical to that of his colleagues. Smiling and courteous, he worked his way between tables, clearing away the detritus left behind after would-be passengers had eaten and drunk their fill. With the thoroughness of those who have different gifts from the majority of society, each table that he cleaned was left sparkling.
One small cluster of customers found their plates tidied away faster then they had planned. The eldest man in the group was about to complain... and he saw the youthful staff member with the tiny eyes and protruding tongue. Without a second thought, every cup, serviette, plate and piece of paper disappeared from the table onto the waiting tray. Delighted with himself, the ‘differently-abled’ youth carried the tray to the waiting receptacle, where he cleared and stacked it on the pile.
As for the group of people? Their faces expressed the same feelings as those which coursed their way through my own heart. Here was someone who was performing an excellent job of work that differed from that of his colleagues only insofar as he was not responsible for the cash register and attending to the food orders of the customers. Perhaps, in some ways, his was a menial task but, in fact, he was holding down paid employment, enjoying himself and, more importantly, was showing the world that, just because someone has Downs Syndrome, it does not mean uselessness.
The young man’s smile and his obvious enjoyment of life were a treat and a lesson to all those who had eyes to see. Whereas the toddler needed the wisdom of her mother in order to see her job through, here was someone functioning independently and bringing pleasure into the lives of others.
A third type of wisdom appeared at the departure gate as a middle-aged man with dark glasses found his seat, thanks to a black Labrador with a white and luminous yellow harness. Comfortably sprawled on the floor, the dog’s eyes and ears moved constantly... and so did its tail! Master and guide needed each other. The tangible bond between them generated smiles and interest, unseen by the blind man.
Wisdom comes in many shapes and forms, offered to us in the most unexpected places. Sometimes it is a learning that comes in solitude and through personal experience. Sometimes that same wisdom appears as a result of communication with others.
There is nowhere on earth that God cannot make himself known: even in the departure lounge of an airport.
God bless, Sr. Janet