This time of year, I usually send out the same story about a little girl in a puffy pink jacket, who I sat next to on a flight around Christmastime.
She was an angel.
I’m actually on the same flight, all these years later, right now.
But I’m not sitting next to a little girl in a puffy pink jacket.
I’m sitting next to a dude doing everything an angel wouldn’t. If you close your eyes and imagine a self-centered douchebag who doesn’t care about anyone else, especially this week, he’s that guy. We hadn’t even pushed back from the gate, and I was already practicing my best what can you do look, for when my face was caught on someone’s cell phone camera, as he was being dragged off the plane.
Hasn’t happened. Well, not yet, thanks to some very, very patient flight attendants, and his embarrassed wife. There’s already been a flight marshal summoned to the front of the plane, to address something else going on in the back of the plane, though.
Anyone who travelled globally in the 80s and 90s will probably remember the term Ugly American, which is what we were told to avoid being in someone else’s country: disrespectful, entitled, unaware.
It’s not just in someone else’s country anymore, is it?
I know, you’re probably wishing I’d just copied and pasted the puffy pink jacket story.
Stay with me.
Before we took off, I’d been wandering around the airport and saw an end-cap displaying chocolate bars made by a friend’s company. I always love seeing these signs of him, in grocery stores or mini-marts or wherever, because he and his family are beautiful, giving, joyful humans. These pieces of their story are my reminders to be more like them.
I talk about that family in Living Halfway, where I also tell the story of how my mom bought me Batman pajamas for my kindergarten Halloween. Pajamas were cheaper than the costume at the drugstore, and were dual purpose. I pulled them out of the box and was horrified to find they were missing the most crucial element, but my mom made a cape from blue nylon.
I wore that cape everywhere.
I loved Batman so much.
Anyway, back to the end-cap. Behind the display was a Christmas tree, which I noticed but promptly forgot about, because I heard the boarding call for my flight and rushed to join the rest of us, trying to get somewhere other than where we were.
And now, here I am, pushed over as far as possible in my seat, with Jabba the Hut having his way next to me.
Well, there I was, until I started fighting back tears behind my glasses.
Some of you may have already seen the story about the kid with leukemia who gets granted his wish to be Batman for a day, and what seems like the entire city of San Francisco comes together in the most incredible, one-loving-thing-leads-to-another fairytale. About halfway through, I noticed a Christmas tree, and realized the documentary was taking place around this time of year.
Toward the beginning, the camera lands on the kid’s intake questionnaire, asking what kind of music he liked.
Really? This barely 5-year-old loves Springsteen? And Batman?
And just like that, he was me, our battles different but not, one fight in the blood, one in the weight of years passed.
Fighting back tears, next to Jabba the Hut.
By the last few breaths of the story, this year’s little girl in the puffy pink jacket had multiplied into all the human beings that came together to make this dream day happen. From the organizers, to the incredible man who helped Batkid through the day as the ‘real’ Batman… from the volunteers to the hundreds, then thousands of people who showed up as the ‘flash mob,’ rooting on their superhero at every turn.
Can you see all of them?
Those are the angels.
There, to give one kid fighting for his life a piece of his childhood back.
Batkid, who has saved a damsel in distress, fought off The Riddler, rescued the SF Giants mascot from The Penguin, and is now standing with the real police chief and mayor of San Francisco on a stage built in the middle of town, getting the key to Gotham city.
A chocolate key, just for him.
Made by my friend’s company.
So I guess my friend is one of these angels, too.
I never knew.
Which means that maybe we have more of these angels among us, silent purveyors of joy and peace and love and everything good this season is about.
Jabba the Hut is no match for that kind of power.
Still can’t wait to get off this plane, though.