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Sharon Randall: Shouldn’t we all show a little respect?

By Sharon Randall

Special to the Salisbury Post 

The announcement came as no surprise: The flight to Las Vegas was completely full and all roll-a-board bags for passengers in the last two boarding groups would need to be checked.

Milling about the gate like a herd of cattle at a salt lick, the crowd mooed its displeasure.

Seems nobody wants to spend an hour in Vegas hanging out in baggage claim, least of all folks in town for a wild weekend.

To me, it didn’t matter. I live in Vegas. My roll-a-board (with a can of hairspray too big to carry on) was already checked.

Finally, we began boarding, squeezing into seats that for the next five hours would keep us cozied up to people we had never met and would probably never see again.

   Luckily, I had an aisle seat. I get claustrophobic in the middle or by the window. Flying is phobic enough as it is.

A big guy sat by the window talking on his phone. A little woman took the middle seat.

“It’s freezing in here,” she said.

I closed the vent over my head. She closed hers and looked at the guy on his phone.

He kept talking. When she reached over to close his vent, he shot up a hand. “Don’t!” he snapped.

She didn’t. She just glared at him, then rolled her eyes at me.

Meanwhile, a few rows back, two people were talking and laughing, growing louder and more profane, unaware or uncaring of children nearby.

After an especially graphic outburst, I caught the eye of the young man who’d shouted it, and with my best “I’m not mad at you, but you need to watch your mouth” mad-mom-smile, I said, “Hey, buddy, there are little people on board.”

He ignored me. It was going to be that kind of flight.

I had just spent four days at the Frederick Buechner Writer’s Workshop at Princeton University, attending seminars that challenged my writing and chapel services that fed my soul.

I’d loved meeting people of various ages and backgrounds, talking in depth about writing, about our lives and our faith.

On the last day of the workshop I had dinner with four women I now call friends. We talked and laughed for hours, sharing our stories, baring our souls. It was a beautiful thing.

I’ve seen that kind of trust and vulnerability shine time and again in small groups or one on one. I’m sure you’ve seen it, too. Given a chance to confide to a gracious listening ear, most of us will gladly open a vein.

Stories hunger to be heard. Listening feeds the soul for the teller and the told. It was a lot to process in four days. I left Princeton exhausted, but inspired.

One hour into the flight home, with f-bombs exploding behind me, I was close to what my grandmother would call “losing my religion.”

So, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and began to pray. Silently, of course. Praying out loud on airplanes tends to make people tighten their seatbelts.

I prayed for my family and friends.

For new friends I’d just met. For people on the plane, some I liked more than others.

Suddenly I heard a glorious sound: The peace that begins where profanity ends. Mr. Foulmouth had fallen asleep. Or passed out.

And my seatmates — two complete strangers who had snarled at each other over a stupid air vent?

They were snoring like woodchippers, blissfully unaware that her head was resting on his shoulder and his chin was on her cheek.

Were they dreaming? Let’s hope so. What would we be without our dreams?

I dream of a world in which, differences be damned, we will treat one another with respect. Not because we all deserve to be respected, but because we all deserve to be respectful.

Do you dream that dream, too? I hope so. Maybe one day we can all dream it together.

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