The cavernous airport terminal throbbed with life in the fast lane. Monotonous voices droned from every speaker, and frigid air washed in and out of automatic doors in shivery waves. Caterpillar lines formed at each gate, and cell phones popped in and out of pockets like so many prairie dogs on a summer day.
Flights were cancelled. Schedules were changed. Eyebrows arched, and the soul of the building was filled with the mournful voices of the delayed. It was winter in Michigan, and I was there.
I watched as the caterpillar rearranged itself after each announcement. Boxes, bags, purses, golf gear. People lurched and surged with their burden–now in line, now out. Lines disappeared, and people stood in forlorn groups, wondering what to do with their time–and their baggage. Various options, none of them easy. Pack it. Stash it. Carry it. Fold it. Drop it. Push it. Roll it. Stow it. Hundreds of passengers faithfully lugged their treasured possessions behind them, yet appeared to desperately want them gone. What would come of all this, I wondered.
One traveler caught my eye. He was different. This one, with skin of ebony and eyes sparkling with good humor, apparently had no baggage. He stood alone and happily in line. And when he had to, he moved happily out of line. He looked around him at the tight frowns and decided, this one with no baggage, to do something about it. I was there, and I saw.
Mostly he used his wide smile. Wrapping itself around him and stretching beyond him, it touched several people who were close. They, too began to smile. Slowly at first, then widely. The people around him, they grinned! And they kept on smiling and grinning, until the caterpillar line was one, long unbridled smile. It was a gift from him who had no baggage, but what he did have, he shared.
The man began to laugh! In an airport, on a dismal day, he laughed. And his laughter caught. He laughed and he laughed. At himself he laughed and at his plight. He laughed so deeply his belly shook. And it caught. First one, then more. They began to laugh. Small at first, and then large. They laughed with him and at themselves. They laughed at their plight and they laughed together. And because the laughter lingered they kept laughing as they left one line for another.
The elfin man now helped them with their baggage. He lifted their boxes and held their wraps, and they laughed and they smiled. I watched. The man with the empty arms became a hat tree, a closet, a bellboy. He couldn’t have done so if his own arms had been full of heavy burdens. If he had been limping and lurching through the caterpillar line he may not have smiled, may not have laughed. And there would be no one to help them with their burdens.
This man, this one, he packed lightly. He traveled light, like the wind. He probably lived lightly. And the laughter of such a one transformed a line and a terminal. His joy reset
Stuck spirits. And we all of us laughed in a line.
Later, travelers at my gate jostled their way onto the plane, stowing their goods, mumbling complaints under their collective breaths and groaning their dissatisfaction. Only a short ride away from the gate, and we stopped again! A two-hour delay on the
runway! Tempers flared and children cried. I saw.
The smallish man with ebony skin began talking. And again he smiled. He laughed as he talked, and laughed some more as he told stories. Again I saw the miracle emerge. His good cheer wound round and round the passengers until it had done its work. His laughter bounced over and beyond his seat, working its’ jolly way around the entire cabin.
He had no baggage. He carried people. He shouldered their loads and made them smile. In a blizzard, in the middle of winter, in the overcrowded cabin of an airliner, I saw the Christ at work. I was there, and I saw: Liberty incarnate.
and Emily @ imperfect prose
The first photograph can be bought on etsy here: http://www.etsy.com/listing/76325259/vintage-suitcase-fine-art-photography
photo of luggage against fence:
all other photos found on google images