Lots of it…
Airports are great venues for people watching. Some folks eagerly wear leis and Hawaiian shirts in anticipation of their tropical vacation, and other folks grudgingly trudge through the concourse in their business attire. People shriek with joy at the first sight of a waiting family member, and others curse angrily at airline gate agents for anything and everything.
I found myself in a couple different airports this week. I arrived early enough in both instances that I had time to grab a bite to eat and catch up on email. By the time I joined the cattle call of fellow passengers slowly shuffling down the jetbridge, I was ready to get to my destination and put the hassle of air travel behind me.
Have you ever been running late to a flight? This is usually the category I fall into, and I’ve had more than my fair share of times zig-zagging through a maze of people as I hustled to beat the clock and make my flight. When I find myself in this situation, sweating through my undershirt and nervously wondering whether my frantic race will be worth it, it is such a feeling of exhilaration to finally arrive at my gate and see the door has not been shut. I want to hug the gate agents, high five the pilots, and do the dance of joy with the flight attendants. I’ve been tempted to commandeer the intercom to lead the flight in a chorus of “We Are the Champions.”
So what’s the difference between boarding a flight with a scowl or a smile? Gratitude. In most instances, we 21st century humans in developed countries see air travel as a necessary evil that allows us to efficiently deliver our PowerPoint presentations in neighboring time zones on consecutive days. We show up, strap in, accrue our frequent flier miles, and reluctantly do it all over again.
But when there is a real possibility of missing your flight and suffering the domino effects of travel trauma, actually making it onto the flight becomes a great victory worth celebrating. When we are truly grateful for the everyday moments in our lives instead of taking them for granted, life becomes a high-fiving, chest-bumping celebration.
If you don’t follow America’s Got Talent and you’ve never heard of Kodi Lee, stop reading this and watch this clip from his first appearance on AGT:
Spoiler alert, for those of you too lazy to watch the video: Kodi Lee is blind and autistic. He walks on the stage escorted by his mother, who is confident and articulate in the spotlight even though her son seemingly lacks those attributes.
The judges pepper Kodi and his mom with questions. Simon is more skeptical than usual. I knew nothing of his story the first time I saw his audition and found myself wondering what talent Kodi was going to share with the world.
Then he sets his walking stick aside and steps behind a Steinway grand piano. After an awkward silence, he begins to tickle the ivories and let his unbelievable, otherwordly voice loose.
To say I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears would be an understatement. Kodi sounds incredible. He is a natural on the piano, a superstar singing on a stage with millions of people watching him. A minute earlier he had been a blind, autistic boy unsure of himself. It’s as if a kindergartener showed up on an NBA court and started throwing down windmill dunks.
How often do we prematurely judge others and conclude that they have “no talent” or are “hopeless?” How often do we criticize ourselves for the same offense? We could see what Kodi Lee appeared to be, but you can’t see someone’s heart, someone’s soul, or someone’s passion by simply by looking at him.
Kodi Lee reminded me to never judge anyone’s potential by how he looks. We need to have a “growth mindset” so that when we meet other people, we see them as the best version of themselves and not what they appear to be at the moment. Otherwise we’d look at a caterpillar wriggling across the ground and view it as another grubby insect, not as the beautiful butterfly it will one day become.