A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Airport Tag

June 23rd, 2002

It was relatively quiet for a late afternoon at the Omaha airport. I was waiting out a two hour layover, pondering the price of a Diet Coke and cookie I had just purchased. “$5.80? Pardon me, miss, but is there a major league baseball game going on behind this counter?” She gave me an “I just work here” shrug and returned to her duties. Moving on toward an empty row of black vinyl seats I was thankful for the lunch I’d eaten. Real hunger would be too expensive around here.

Plopping down with my briefcase next to me, I chugged some of my Coke and bit into my cookie. A Ghirardelli chocolate chip fell to the floor. About .42 worth, I estimated. Oh, well. I’ve had chocolate chip cookies before, but how many opportunities will I have to eat one in the Omaha airport? Even ordinary moments only come around once. I took another bite and leaned back to look around. There were the usual newspapers with fingers peeking around the edges, gate agents fielding questions about departure times, and a few tired travelers like myself with $5.80 expressions on their faces.

You might say I heard the thunder before I saw the storm. “C’mon! Let’s go!” Headed my direction, darting through people and Samsonite suitcases as big as himself was a brown haired, three year old tornado in a jean jacket. “C’mon, Dad!”, he yelled to the grown up bouncing along behind him like a guy being walked by a Great Dane. The kid was on a mission, whatever it was.

It was in the days pre-9/11 when you could meet your party at the gate. They stopped in front of Gate 20. “Is that the plane?”, the son wanted to know. “No, not that one. Mommy’s plane isn’t here yet. Pretty soon.” He heard his Dad’s answer but just to be certain he asked about every plane he could see through the giant glass windows overlooking the runway. After about 10 minutes, which feels like forever to a small boy waiting for his Mom, an America West plane docked at the jet way. “Is that the one?”, he squealed. Dad, anticipating a breakaway attempt,  slowly and gently firmed his grip on his son’s little shoulders before answering. “That’s the one!”

Ever try to hold a tornado by the collar?

Passengers began filtering off the aircraft, slowly at first then en mass. The small one’s mission had just been elevated  to red alert status. I watched his eyes perform rapid fire reconnaissance on every face coming through the door. He knew who he was looking for and when he finally made a positive ID there was no holding him back. “Mommy!” Using a masterful “squirm and sprint” technique, he left Dad grabbing the air. Mom, too, heard her little thunder before she saw him and smiled at the thought. As if knowing he would find her, she dropped to one knee just in time to be hit with a flying hug that almost knocked her over.

After welcome home kisses, the three of them walked toward baggage claim. They had  traveled only a few feet when the tornado fell back a few steps behind his parents. Like a wide receiver in motion he ran past his Mom, tagging her on the leg as he blazed by, laughing hysterically. Mom laughed, too, and catching up to her son tagged him back before running on ahead. Their jubilant game continued all the way down the concourse until they were out of sight.

I looked around the way one does just after they’ve seen a shooting star. We want to know if anyone else saw the same streak across the sky. About 20 feet away, in front of me and to my right, sat a businessman dressed to the nines. Soft leather briefcase and overcoat, silk tie, Italian leather shoes, and a suit that was definitely not off the rack. If it was Gucci, he carried or wore it. Certainly he had to have seen what I saw. But he hadn’t. His nose was buried in a book. When I walked by to throw away my empty Coke cup I looked to see what he was reading. It was a self-help selection from the airport newsstand on how to get more out of life.

I felt sorry for Mr. Gucci. He was busy searching a paperback theory for wisdom on how to get more out of life and missed the living, breathing, whirling cyclone of joy that danced right past him. Tempted though I was, to judge him was to judge myself. How many times have I been reading about life instead of living it? How often have my eyes been open to my book and blind to God’s blessings?

The businessman and I had something in common, I decided. We both paid too much for what we bought at the airport that afternoon. Still, even at .42 per chocolate chip I think I got the better deal. That 3′ dynamo who laughed loud and hugged hard saved me a future fortune at the bookstore.

Airport layovers. Diet Cokes. Chocolate chips.  Little boy laughter.

Even ordinary moments only come around once.