Thursday, August 6, 2009

Young Father in My Box

I recently flew on an overbooked airplane. Passengers were asked to trade seats to accommodate families with small children. Everyone was situated after a few rounds of musical seats, and I ended up sitting next to a man with a 14-month-old boy. Michael was a fidgety little guy who couldn't sit still. His mommy and older brother were sitting five rows behind us and he constantly stood up and yelled, "Mommy!" pointing in her direction. I thought to myself, "this could be a long flight."

The father is an electrical engineer by training and occupation but a musician by desire and passion. He described his busy career and said more than once how much he hates his job. He told me that he's resigned five times in the last ten years and with each resignation, a tantalizing cash carrot is dangled before him. "Two more years, " he said, "and I'm quitting it for good."

His heart longs to write songs and play music. In addition to his engineering credentials, he's a trained musician. He's made demo tapes. He has industry connections to make his dream a reality, but the fear of not making enough money (however much that is) is greater than his desire to follow his dream.

He told me that before the children came along he and his wife would meet in an airport, have dinner and she would give him the keys to their car in the airport parking lot. She would continue her flight and he would go home. Then the next week the schedule would be in reverse--he would give her the car keys and he would continue traveling. I asked him how they ever managed to have two children. He didn't respond.

Their current travel schedule isn't much better now that they have children. He works in Los Angeles and they live in Tampa. He works on the west coast two weeks each month and flies in and out of Tampa on a regular basis. I was tired just listening to his hectic schedule. He and his wife swap this flight pattern regularly. He keeps the boys and she travels.

As I listened to him talk, I was reminded of my life several years ago when Danny traveled at a frenetic pace. He was always on a plane going somewhere--somewhere other than home. We paid a dear price for all that travel. I briefly shared our family's story with my seatmate and encouraged him to stay home with his boys. He said that's his desire but right now the money is just too good to pass on.

Ah, the money. I recall thinking if we had lots of money we would be problem-free; life doesn't work that way. A quick look at the slick magazines in checkout lines cry out that fame and fortune don't guarantee a problem-free existence. For all their millions, the magazine-covered celebrities suffer just like the rest of us who don't have all those dollars in our checking accounts. Matthew 16:25-26 says, "What good will it be for a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? What can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

I watched this young father play with his son and heard Michael's sweet laughter as his daddy tickled him. I remarked, "that is such a sweet sound, enjoy it." He looked at me like I was nuts! I hope and pray that something I said will help him answer the tough questions about what is most important in his life. Those boys will stay young and innocent for only a short while. The childish peals of laughter change into deeper voices sooner than we want them to change. We can't go back and recapture misspent time.

I've thought of this young career man several times since our plane landed. My prayer is that he truly becomes grounded and seeks God's best for his family.

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