Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Harold and Emma

I'll start this off with a disclaimer. This post is not specific to leading worship or church production. I think it's a pretty good story though.

A few Fridays ago I took my daughters to the airport so they could fly home to visit family. After getting through the terminal very easily, we had some time to kill and went to look for some chairs near the gate. Emma (12) was the first to approach the row of seats, where there were about half a dozen empty ones next to an older black dude who was probably in his mid-sixties. Before we even get our butts down, Emma says "what brings you to Wisconsin", which is where my girls were heading, but confusing since we were in Phoenix, but that's kind of how Emma rolls.

Frankly, I was surprised, because I usually think of Emma as having trouble with social skills, but I may have to reconsider.  Emma sat down next to Harold and I was on the other side of her. Harold smiled and informed Emma he was flying to Indiana. Millie (11) was glued to her phone.

Harold and Emma started to have a conversation about Indiana and Milwaukee and cold and snow and family and the desert and mountains and rattlesnakes and scorpions and mosquitoes. It was pretty awesome.

I joined the conversation the way most introverts that want to be polite do - reluctantly. Over the next half hour or so, I learned that Harold worked for the railroad for 40 years. Harold lost his wife in 2013. He retired in 2009 and has been visiting Phoenix regularly since. He has a girlfriend who doesn't want to live in Arizona. He has a daughter and a son that live in Phoenix. His daughter works for a bank and worked for Fresh and Good Foods until they recently went bankrupt. Harold loves Phoenix, but since his girlfriend Theresa doesn't, he probably won't be moving anytime soon.  Friends told him that he would hate Los Angeles if he ever visited, but he visited and didn't hate it. Harold believes in God. He brought it up several times. Especially when he told me how his son died in 1992 in a motorcycle accident and that he visits his grave several times a week. I shared with him how I lost my wife to cancer in 2009 and that I raise my girls on my own with help from friends and family. We both fought back some tears telling and listening to our stories.

When it was time for my girls to get in line to get on the plane (which is when my blood pressure instantly jumps over 200 for those of you keeping score at home) Harold shook my hand and gave Emma a big hug. Millie was still on her phone. It's okay. She has plenty of her own moments.

I walked my girls to the jetway without any meltdowns. Them or me. Then I stared out a giant glass wall waiting for the plane to inch backward. Harold came over to ask how I wasn't balling right then. I told him hiding it was a learned skill.

After the plane took off and I watched it turn into a tiny dot blotted out by the sun, I started to head out, but not before I walked over to shake Harold's hand one more time. He gave me a hug instead.

I walked back to the parking lot thinking about what had happened. Because Emma struck up a conversation and I was open to it, I ended up connecting with another human being and it was pretty amazing. How many times have I shut down that opportunity because "I'm an introvert" or because there are other things on my mind or because my fantasy football lineup needs another adjustment?

It was a good reminder from Harold and Emma to be open to those connections.


  1. You and Harold may have had tears but I also had to fight back tears while reading this. Well said and what a great reminder to be open to those connections.

    1. Thanks, sunny! Didn't mean to make you cry, but glad you got something out of the post. I know I did in writing it.

  2. Emma is a precious young lady. Tears of gratitude are very appropriate. I imagine Emma won her way into Harold's heart in a way he will never forget. And she teaches us to live by faith that moves mountains.

  3. What a gift it was to read this story. I often find myself like Emma, meeting people through random acts or heart lead curiosity in attempts to connect with people who need to know we're indeed never alone but al(one). Thanks for sharing.