Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From a Sleeping 15-Month-Old
JANUARY 5, 2023
by Kent Keller
Several years ago my Miami-dwelling family spent Thanksgiving week in Kansas with my mother and two older brothers. I know, Kansas probably isn’t high on your list of places to spend a holiday – maybe not even an afternoon – but that’s home for my family of origin. So there we were: my wife Heidi, our at the time three children, Christy, who was eight, Andrew (five), Allison (one) and me. (Our youngest daughter, Charissa, made her grand appearance a year later.)
We had a wonderful time being together. My brothers and I had not all been together for ten years, and neither of them had met their youngest niece, so it was great to get to see them and show her off. The kids got to experience temperatures lower than 50 degrees, which was fun … especially since we knew we would head back to 80 degrees and sunny.
The time with my family went by quickly, and next thing we knew we were leaving chilly Kansas City to head back to warm, sunny Miami. If you have ever tried to get a family of five from Point A to Point B, especially when Points A and B are 1250 miles and two sold-out airplanes apart, you can appreciate something of the difficulty involved. The expression “herding cats” comes to mind. Christy and Andrew were excited about flying for the second time, Heidi and I were moderately stressed trying to keep up with them in the crowded airports, and Allison was just happy to be along for the ride.
Somewhere flying over the Midwest, Allison decided she would give Heidi a little break and favor me by sitting with me awhile. After inspecting everything in my shirt pocket (several times – I had no idea taking a pen out of a pocket and putting it back could be so entertaining), she yawned, stretched, and fell sound asleep in my arms. She stayed that way until we landed in Miami a couple of hours later, too.
And therein lie the aforementioned life-lessons.
Allison wasn’t worried at all about getting from Kansas City to Miami. In fact, she didn’t know Kansas City from Miami, or how to get from one to the other. (She gets her sense of direction from my wife, but if you tell her I said that, I’ll deny it.) All she knew was that she was safe in the arms of someone who loves her, and she felt secure in the knowledge that he would make sure she got home safely.
We ran through several patches of air turbulence, enough to make people click their seat-belts back on and reach for their plastic drink glasses. At least once we had one of those drops that makes you feel like you’re on a ride at the Fair, the kind that evokes a lot of “Ohhhh”’s from the passengers and reassuring words from the pilot. Again, Allison slept right through it. No anxiety, no white knuckles on those little hands … she just slept on soundly. What turbulence?
Because it was a holiday, the flights were all packed – not an empty seat anywhere. The airline had resorted to bribery to try to free up a couple: we turned down two free round-trip tickets and $100 apiece to give up our seats.
(I did pray about whether or not to give up one or both of the kids’ seats at that price. God told me not to. Then I contemplated giving up my seat in order to grab that Benjamin and those round-trippers – just for the good of the family, of course – but Heidi let me know that would be one of the worst decisions I ever made in our married life. And quite possibly the last.)
Of course, all this caused both of our flights to run late. Many people in the airports and on the planes were concerned about making their connections, and what they would do if they didn’t. Not Allison. The only connection she was concerned about was the one with me, and that was right on time, right where it was supposed to be.
Finally, we landed in Miami, a little late and a little frazzled, but all together and glad to be home. Allison didn’t flinch when we bounced on the tarmac. She didn’t reach for the armrest when the plane braked hard and slowed rapidly. She didn’t try to be the first one in the aisle when we came to a stop, jockeying for position with all those hurried, harried travelers. In fact, she never even stirred until I took off my seat belt and stood up with her to leave the plane. Then she opened those baby blues, rubbed her eyes … and smiled.
“Dad-dy!” she said, as though she were surprised to see me back here in Miami.
A prayer from yours truly:
Father, teach me to be as secure in my relationship with you as my baby daughter was with me. Help me not to be so concerned with getting from Point A to Point B (or C or D or E or …) all the time. Most of life is in the journeying, not the arriving. Give me “the peace that passes understanding” when the turbulence comes … and it always comes. Nothing in your word gives any false indication otherwise. Allow me to be more contented with the arrangements and the circumstances you have ordained in my life right now, and not to be so consumed with the next connection / meeting / sermon / appointment / paycheck / whatever. I think that’s what my Savior meant when he said, “Do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And finally, Father, of your tender mercies and limitless grace, grant that I may be as delighted to be in your presence as a child with his or her mother or father … until the day when I arrive home, rub the sleep from my eyes, and cry,
A slightly different version of this story appeared in the book Along the Way, Jordan Press, 2007.