While flying from the midwest to the West Coast yesterday, I met Jackson.
Jackson is 5. Old enough to play spelling games on the iPad. Young enough to be extremely fidgety when he really needs to use the bathroom but the seatbelt sign is illuminated.
For two hours, I watched Jackson play games, listened to Jackson chatter with his mom, wondered what Jackson what thinking as he stared intently at other passengers, laughed at Jackson when he delivered his opinions about the other passengers, and smiled at Jackson when he spoke enthusiastically about how much he loved pretty much everything in the whole entire world.
I rejoiced in my soul because it was such a lovely little picture of all that is right with the world.
Until 5 minutes before landing. When Jackson decided to look at the laminated emergency landing brochure in the seatback. The brochure that shows a plane landing on grass. And in the water.
I heard Jackson ask his mom, “Is it better to land on water or on grass? Why do planes land in the water?”
To which his mom said, “Planes don’t land in water. They land at airports. But if a plane ever did need to land in the water, these pictures show you what to do.”
Jackson was quiet for a minute or two. And then said this:
“Do planes need to land in the water when someone shoots one of the… one of the… one of the… one of the… (long pause while he searched for the right word) … gadgets?”
He pointed out the window at the engine.
I’d been so afraid that the word he was searching for had been pilots. But engines really wasn’t any less tragic.
I think Jackson has a good life. His mother is patient, kind, fun, caring. The grandparents he was traveling to see are (in his estimation) awesome and great and wonderful. He is part of a family that has the means to travel. He is healthy and smart and creative.
But even so, at 5 years old, he can articulate his awareness that people might shoot at engines and airplanes might have to land in water (if only it were that simple).
And I wept in my soul because it was such a heartbreaking reflection of all that is wrong with the world.
Oh dear Jesus – we so desperately need your transforming love and redeeming grace and sacred hope.