The smell of coffee beans and cinnamon rolls wafted through the crowded terminal. Passengers congregated like impatient sardines near the gate, waiting for the airline employee to announce their boarding group. The flight was assigned seating, so I was happy to wait until the last minute to start breathing recycled air. I was thrilled to be heading to a writers’ retreat, but flying is not my favorite.
I was already starting to feel anticipatory nausea (it’s a thing), and the loud shrieking nearby wasn’t helping. I looked over and saw a mom and toddler in front of a vending machine. The little boy stomped his feet until his mom handed him a blue bag of Chips Ahoy.
Cookies at 8:00 a.m. aren’t going to help anyone! I thought.
Immediately, a pang of conviction trumped my snap judgment. Surely I have not been above doling out sugary snacks to my own kids to buy myself a few minutes of peace and quiet.
Lord, forgive me for being quick to judge. Please bless this mama with someone kind and loving to sit next to on the plane. Help her to see You in her day. Amen.
The traveling sardines eventually filed down the jet bridge. I followed to 17E. It was a full flight, so I was surprised to find my entire row empty. As I shoved my backpack under the seat, I had a glorious vision: three hours of uninterrupted rest and productivity. With extra space, I’d be able to concentrate on finalizing my speaking notes for the retreat and then catch a little snooze. I’d land ready and refreshed for all God had planned! I adjusted the air vent and closed the shutter. Deep breath. This might actually be a great flight.
Then there they were. The little boy with cookie crumbs on his chin, crawling into the seat next to me. The mom settled in and took off her son’s shoes. He wiggled and shrieked and wedged himself on the floor between the seats.
“I just want to apologize in advance,” she said softly.
And I knew. I knew God was answering my prayer. Be the blessing.
I took a deep breath.
“Don’t even worry about it,” I said. “I have three boys. I know contained spaces can be tough.” She smiled weakly.
The next three hours were punctuated by screaming and squirming. When Jack’s mom tried to get the toddler to rest in her lap, his feet kicked against my thigh. When the cartoon on her phone ended, when she offered the wrong snack, when he dropped his toy car for the fourteenth time, Jack wailed. His mom stayed calm.
“You’re okay,” she said.
“You’re okay,” he repeated.
Somewhere between the complimentary pretzels and the woman in front of us glaring back again, I struck up a conversation. Typical questions: How old is your son? Do you have other kids? Are you headed home or going on a trip? Jack just turned three and had two older step-siblings. They were on their way home.
“It’s not easy flying with a little one,” I said. “You’re doing a really great job.”
“Thanks. This is way better than last time.” I saw a wince of remembrance flash over her face. “Jack got diagnosed with autism a couple of months ago. He’s not very verbal and gets easily frustrated. But he started therapy, and it’s really helping.”
I had hoped this flight would be a quiet space for me to work and rest. That didn’t happen. I didn’t get to prepare for my meetings or take a nap. But I did catch a glimpse of Jesus.
The engines hummed louder as we made our final descent. Jack nuzzled closer to his mama. With a stranger’s tiny toes pressed against me, all I could think was: What if we’re supposed to be the answer to our prayer? What if we changed the way we prayed?
Instead of “Lord, bless them,” “Lord, prepare me to be a blessing.”
Instead of “Lord, show them kindness,” “Lord, empower me to be kind.”
Instead of “Lord, provide,” “Lord, give me eyes to see and a willingness to give.”
I deboarded the plane and was grateful to stretch my legs. Just beyond the gate I passed a vending machine with a row of bright blue-packaged cookies. I looked back over my shoulder and caught a glimpse of Jack. I mulled over the truth like a student rehearsing exam facts she doesn’t want to forget: Appearances never tell the whole story. Appearances never tell the whole story. Be the blessing. Be the blessing.
Three years later and I’m still rehashing this story in my mind.
Be the answer to my prayer for kindness. Be the one who sees a stranger through God’s eyes of love and compassion instead of my own judgment and inconvenience. It was only Jesus in me that prompted me to get off the high horse of my own annoyance in the airport terminal and even think to pause in prayer for this struggling mama-son pair. I’m so grateful the Lord gave His Spirit to whisper to mine.
But it’s not enough just to hear. Our faith grows legs for change when we turn that hearing into doing.
The small shift from self-focused to others-focused, from perception to action, is the beginning of the simple difference.
Becky Keife’s new book, The Simple Difference: How Every Small Kindness Makes a Big Impact, will help you see more of the people in front of you, more of God’s lavish love for you, and more of His power within you.
The Simple Difference comes out October 5th! Pre-order your copy (direct links to retailers here), and fill out this form to receive a bunch of FREE goodies, including a set of 40 Kindness Counts notecards from DaySpring! We’re so excited for this book to be in your hands!Leave a Comment
N L Brown says
Thank you for the reminder this morning to be the answer, be the blessing!
Becky Keife says
Every day is an opportunity to partner with God! What a gift. Thanks for reading today, sister.
Wow… this is a great way to consider our thoughts and prayers… thank you.
Becky Keife says
It’s a continual challenge and encouragement for me too! Thanks for reading, Nancy.
Ruth Mills says
Love this encouragement! Blue bags of chips ahoy will be a nudge of remembrance to rephrase my prayers to be the blessings. Thank you for sharing & being a blessing to me/us!
Becky Keife says
I love that, Ruth! Grateful for your encouragement too. ♥️
This really spoke to my heart today. So many times I offer up those little prayers, expecting someone else to be the answer. Thank you for reminding me that I may be the one to answer if I am willing to obey.
Becky Keife says
It’s been such a powerful shift in perspective for me too. Glad it resonated with you today, Kim!
Thank you for these words and perspective. So many times I am praying for God to provide for others, to bless others with peace, love, whatever they need. Now I am going to look to God to equip me. And phew. Hard look at the snap judgement. Needed that. Thank you ❤
Becky Keife says
With you, Bonnie. Glad to know this encouraged you!
Becky, this is so good. We are all quick to jump to critical annoyance where kind patience is needed. Thanks for this reminder. We don’t always see the whole picture. But God knows. And we need to be willing to be the blessing in those situations. Looking forward to your book! These excerpts have been so good.
Becky Keife says
Thank you so much, Gail!
Beth Williams says
This reminds me of Matthew West’s song “Do Something.” Talks about waking up & seeing all the trouble in the world. Then man gets mad at God & says do something. Then God gently says I did–I created you. God expects us to be the answers to others prayers. Be the one to help feed homeless/less fortunate. The one who talks to mama traveling with a child. We need to shift our focus onto others & act on what God tells us to do. A few weeks ago volunteering in a food bank one of workers said I hear you’re a good cook. Then I heard God audibly say cook food for him. He’s going through cancer treatments. I did. It blessed the pants off me. When we take the time to hear God & act we just may get the blessings.
Christine Jackson says
What an important reminder for me. Be the blessing rather than the critic as I move through my week. Thank you.
Oh my. This brought tears. First of all, you are so authentic and honest. Then to hear how God answered your prayer! He is so amazing! WOW! And also I appreciated this as this is something I have been working on for over a year–NOT JUDGING. I catch myself having an opinion about everything! BLAH! I’m trying to see the good, the blessing, the joy in all things. Who am I to think I should have an opinion about everything?! God has brought me down a peg or two and I’m so grateful He has!
Thank you Becky for a beautiful, meaningful devotion. I needed it, for sure! God bless you!
Becky Keife says
Thank you, Debbie. God is so patient with us! What a gift to be able to partner with Him!
Linda Sprunt says
Thank you Becky!
What a beautiful example of Psalm 143:8b…”Show me where to walk for I give myself to You.”
This blessed me and was a needed reminder!! Thank you!!
This is really good, Becky! Thank you for sharing it with us.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Becky I know someone with austim. I looked after them when I was Registered Childminder. I know quite alot about how there world works. The way they see and do things. One thing I do know is they have little patience’s most of them. They don’t understand stand why things take so long to do. Or you have to wait your turn. For some of them that is hard to grasp. As they get older they say if for example you took them to Coffee shop for a treat. They expect there drink and treat to come out in less than 3 minutes. Even if the coffee shop is busy. You tell them they have to wait a bit longer. That gets to them. They see the world so differently than Me and You Becky. They think it should be out nearly right away. Then when they are finished. They think now I finished it time to go. Getting them to sit wait for you finished what your having in the coffee shop is hard. One more thing about kids with Austim. Is most of them can’t sit still. The Austim world so different. I can see why that Parents get frustrated. Think everyone is looking at them and talking about them. Saying behind their backs. Why does that Parent not disapline that child. Tell them to sit down and stop being so fiddie. When you have a child with Autism. That is can be very hard. I found that out as Childminder. With the child I looked after. You can get days they are as good as the saying goes Gold. They love you praise them for that. But you have to remember they see the world different to any one else. Especially small spaces and crowds get them. So I can see why the boy on the plain was fiddie. No matter what Parents do. Sometimes. It doesn’t work. I have been there when Childminding. Through it all now not Childminding any more. In those years as Childminder. It taught me not to judge Parents. When you see a child who you think is doing in your eyes things that they shouldn’t be doing. Your are not to judge that Parent by saying why don’t they disapline them. Tell them not to do that. God told me this. As you never know that child could have Disability like Austim. The Parent at their wits end. They know if they did disapline the child. It could only make the child if has Disability like Austim worse. As the child would not understand why if the Austim really bad. Why they are being disaplined. So when we God said to if you see a child that is fiddie or in our eyes being naughty. We are not say that is Juding the Parents and we are jumping to conclusions. Why can’t they disapline the child. Tell them to be good. God said Dawn just pray for that Mum and her child. As you don’t know what that Mum is going through. If the child has Disability or not. As saying anything you are Juding that Parent. That is wrong in my eyes God told me. So if I see a child that is being what I call naughty. I just go into prayer. Say God be with Mum and her child. She mustant have it easy at times. Give that Mum the strength to cope. Be with her. Something along those lines I pray to myself for that Mum and her Child. So I not juding the Mum. I praying for her and her Child. As we as people in this world don’t know what other people who are Parents are going through with their kids. If they have a disability their child. Especially if we don’t know the child or the Parents. So this were we especially if saved. Have to use wisdom. Not judge that Mum. That day your were on Plane with that Mother and her we boy with Austim. My heart would have went out to her with her son with Austim. It would not have been a easy plain ride for her with a child with Autism. So God will bless you Becky for being a friend to mother on the plane journey. With her we boy with Austim. See you were a real blessing to that Mum that day. Thank you for sharing what you shared. My heart goes out to parents with kids with disabilities. I pray for them. Ask God to give them the strength to cope. As it would not be easy for them. But God showed me no matter how hard it is a times bring a child up with Disability. They would not stop and say I wish they were normal. They get on with being a Mum to child with a disability. Give them all their love. They could say I know it hard at times for me. Especially when my child got disability. But I not change them for the world. They are my child. I love them no matter what. This also teaches me. That God loved us no matter what. He wouldn’t have it any other way. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx in my prayers everyone incourage.
Tina Hillier says
As a Mum of 3 children with complex needs , thank you for being a blessing to that Mum.
We have met with much kindness and acceptance over the years but have also garnered stares, pointing, tutting etc.
My daughters have also been “the answer, the blessing” at times.
God can use the least likely of us to be the blessing
JENNIFER E HASSEL says
Becky I love your message: let me be the blessing, empower me to be kind, let me see others through eyes and a heart of compassion.
Thank you for sharing your words. Even though you would have preferred the comfort of a quiet flight, you gained a life lesson and in turn you have impacted each of us who reads your story.
Thank you for that. It reminds me of a time I was the one on the plane but the mama was behind me. If we all did this the world would be so much better. I deal with this type of situations every day from other people wishing they would would just be Ku see and more understanding.
Thank you I try to always be kind.
Martha T. says
Your post was very touching . The prayer to be a blessing is one I will incorporate into my prayers!
Brenda M. Russell says
Kindness works for me all the time !
I truly enjoy being kind to people; my friends, my family and those I don’t know. It won’t be expensive to smile at people. It’s courteous to say good morning and or hello, how are you today. May I open the door for you? May I help you with your packages? You go ahead, I can wait.
These are just a few ways to be kind. You could consider taking a student who is your neighbor to school with your child. You could offer to share your pound cake with your coworker. You could offer to get groceries for an elderly neighbor. Maybe you could share your groceries with a neighbor who lost their job. Maybe you could offer a ride to a coworker who doesn’t have her own vehicle.
Just pause and consider how you would feel if someone helped you when you needed help. Pass it on.
Enjoy your Holiday weekend.