As I was getting settled in my seat for the last leg of the journey back from Africa, a small commotion broke out a couple of rows ahead of me.
A father was seated at the window in the short, two-person flank of seats. On the aisle across from him was placed a middle-aged woman in the four-seat middle section. Next to her sat the father’s daughter.
The father asked the middle-aged lady to switch seats with him, so he could sit next to his young teen-aged daughter. The lady explained that, because of a medical condition, she frequently needs to go to the bathroom. As such, she really needed an aisle seat for the ten-hour journey from Frankfurt to Denver.
The father immediately lost his patience with her, demonizing her and scolding her in front of a multitude of others for her unwillingness to accommodate the ‘wish of a father to sit next to his daughter.’ He then fumingly tried to enlist a Lufthansa attendant to ask the lady to move, to require her to move.
"Unbelievable," I thought to myself.
The flight attendant explained to him that she couldn’t make the lady move, nor would it be fair to do so. She further pointed out that he was only two seats away from his daughter.
By this point the daughter was really quite embarrassed by her father’s actions and emphatically said, "Please, dad, it’s no big deal. This seat is fine!"
After some additional bad-tempered words, the father changed tactics and asked the now-seated aisle occupant next to him to switch positions with his daughter. As expected, the passenger wasn’t willing to exchange a prime seat for one squarely in the middle of the center section. The father tried to lay the same guilt trip upon this man.
Nobody in the immediate vicinity wanted to help out the father, especially since he was only two seats away from his daughter and she was a teenager, not a little girl. Had their seats been further apart and the girl much younger, the response from the surrounding passengers quite probably would have been different. Had the father not lost his cool so publically with the recipient of the first request, things might have been different.
The father then demanded that the flight attendant come up with another option. After all, it simply ‘wasn’t right,’ and was obviously the ‘airline’s fault,’ that he wasn’t issued a seat right next to his girl.
The flight attendant spent the next ten minutes or so seeking out all options further down the cabin. I watched her as she tried every permutation possible. Dozens of people were kindly asked if they could switch seats. Most were audience to the prior outburst and were therefore not highly motivated to meet the unreasonable demands of the father.
The whole episode ended with the father angrily telling the flight attendant that he would be writing a letter to Lufthansa, demanding his money back for the flight.
A few weeks ago, I watched Glue Boys, a feature-length documentary directed by Phil Hamer, the son of Dan and Kathleen Hamer whom I met at Saddleback a couple of months ago. Dan is the Chief Financial Officer for the influential mega-church. He and Kathleen serve on the HIV/AIDS and Orphan Care teams. They have adopted two boys from Kitale, Kenya.
Moved by the plight and rescue of his two brothers, Phil decided to tell the story of the glue-huffing street boys of Kitale. During one scene, Phillip juxtaposes images of two very young orphans, roaming the dirty, grimy dumps of Kitale, with American news broadcast clips concerning two toddlers that were found wandering the sidewalks of their neighborhood after straying from the not-so-watchful eye of their father.
As you can imagine, the US media sensationalized the incident. Broadcast after broadcast, and network after network, described the ‘horror’ of such a thing – two little boys out on the ‘hard streets’ of the ‘burb! Who knows what dangers could have befallen them?!
Meanwhile, the two little tykes in Kenya were navigating everyday obstacles such as human waste, burning trash, and glue-sniffing older comrades. They represent millions of children just like them – toddlers that have to daily fend for themselves while a single mother tries to earn income for the family, or as parents lay dying of AIDS, or as an older head-of-household sibling attends school, or because there is simply nobody left to care for them.
Where is the anger from the western media over the scenarios that really count?
Are these kids any less important?
Don’t get me wrong, two year-olds shouldn’t be wandering around unaccompanied in America, regardless of how comparatively safe the surroundings are. But the intensity of the news reports were exceedingly disproportionate to the reality of thousands upon thousands of two year-olds who are roaming the disease-infested streets and slums of the developing world. These children beg for scraps and daily have to dodge all kinds of physical death traps and predatory monsters.
Many don’t make it.
Again…where is the sense of outrage from western news organizations?
Is sitting two seats removed from your daughter really such a big deal?
She’s within arm’s reach. She’s being tended to with food, snacks, drinks and a couple of movies. She has a pillow and blanket.
And she has a father.
Maybe it’s time to not be so wrapped up in our own little, comfortable worlds…and look further afield.