Our oldest had flown the coop. First to college, then the Navy. It had been months since we had seen him, and his birthday was coming.
"Why don't we go see Tiger for spring break?" Captain Fun said to me one morning.
"Uh, do you know how much that would cost?" I failed math in college, but I did know that airline tickets for seven kids and three adults from Vermont to Virgina would be a hefty sum.
"And it is worth every penny," he said. (Like I've said before, I don't call him Captain Fun for nothing).
We bought the tickets. We packed 10 suitcases, two car seats, and one diaper bag. We were a sight at the airport. A spectacle. An exhibition.
"I bet you had to mortgage your house to make this trip," a man in the security line said.
Everyone paired off and we boarded the plane. Bethany, 18, and Dorothy, 4, were a perfect match. Ben, 12, paired up with Cory, 6, for some brotherly bonding. Mary, 10, and Emma, 9, were inseparable. Captain Fun escorted his mother, who really didn't need an escort, even at 81. And, as always, I got dibs on the baby. I like it that way.
To save money, we landed about two hours from Norfolk. We claimed our bags--all ten of them--and made our way to the rental car counter to drive the rest of the way. Twenty minutes turned into thirty. Forty five minutes approached an hour. The rental agent assured us that our twelve passenger van was coming momentarily. I kept throwing snacks at the kids, assuring them that we were not sleeping over at the airport. Captain Fun kept assuring the agent that the wait was no big deal.
After almost 90 minutes, the car was ready. We thanked the agent from the bottom of our tired hearts.
"Now I am totally convinced that you guys are nuts," my son said when we finally arrived at his base. I blamed Captain Fun for the idea, as well as the marvelous time we had with Tiger all week. It was a shot in the arm for all of us.
We returned home via the same route, of course. Same airport, same rental car company, even the same agent. "Hey!" he said when he saw my husband approach the counter. "I was just talking to my mother about you last night."
He nodded. "I told her that one of my customers changed my life this week by his kindness," he said, adding he would be going to church on Sunday as a result.
While we were waiting to board, he gathered the kids and told them what the agent had said. "You had a part in that," he added, "because you were so patient and well behaved," he told them. "See the difference a little kindness makes?"
Four years have passes since that trip, but once in a while the kids will talk about it, and the conclusion is always the same; whether it is by speaking a good word or simply controlling your temper, the far reaching effects of kindness cannot be underestimated.
"Do all things without complaining or arguing, that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the Word of life.." Philippians 2:14-16 (--NIV)