People Watching

I am still sitting in terminal 1 in the C concourse at Chicago O’Hare airport on the 14th hour of delay, waiting for a flight home.  The monitor, which I no longer believe, says that I still have two more hours to wait. So, I do what everyone does under these circumstances; I slouch in my uncomfortable faux leather chair, crossing and uncrossing my legs to maintain circulation, and watch people walk by. 

There is a lot of talk about diversity, how everybody is different and the difference is good for everyone.  Well, in this airport I have found the grand slam of diversity.  I have seen every shape, size and color of person meander by my perch in just the last 30 minutes. I have a great location to watch and write about the world, and I don’t think I can even type fast enough to capture all that I see.  My plan is simple; I will smile at random people walking past, not too obvious-just a pleasant hello kind of smile, and note their reaction.  Here we go:

  • A big cowboy dressed in Wranglers, boots, hat, and silver belt buckle just passed by.  Our eyes met; he didn’t smile, just sort of glared.


  • An elderly lady in a group with her husband, kids and grandkids strolled past. I smiled and she smiled back, then she walks over and told me they were on their way to South Dakota and that the trip should be interesting.  Her smile and demeanor was warm and sincere.


  • A middle aged oriental lady pulling a suitcase, hunched over from the backpack on her back, and holding a Starbucks coffee cup that was almost as big as she, slowly walked by. Her eye contact was short lived – no smile.


  • Two kids bounce by; closely followed by their twenty-something- parents.  From their dress and Birkenstocks I bet they are from Oregon.  The kids smile at me for about two seconds, and then they are off; but, a short smile from a life force as powerful as a four year old can brighten any day. 

It is interesting how often people walk back and forth, as if they had somewhere to go, then forgot and then remembered again.  Perhaps it is because I am in an airport where traveling can cause stress, but smiles are infrequent, and most people have the worn look of exhaustion and ache. The scene is one of a hurried depression; a mass of people that are just barely making it through the day. Viewing it makes me a little sad.  That is, except for two groups: the very young and very old.  The kids are smiling, and excited, their enthusiasm for traveling is evident in every lively step.  My guess is that the exuberance for the destination equals the fun of getting there for the young traveler.  The elderly don’t walk; they stroll with a quiet confidence.  Most do not look stressed at all by the hustle of travel, they appear knowledgeable enough to know that worry or angst will never get you home any faster. 

There has been a girl in her early twenties sitting next to me typing on her laptop for about 45 minutes.  She just asked me to watch her belongings, consisting of a laptop and carry-on while she goes to get some food.  An unusual and welcome display of trust.  She also smiled when she asked.

God wants us to show our Christian love through the expressions on our face. He prefers that people can tell, just by looking at us that we have something special inside, making us naturally happy, or joyful. The peace of God is in us, and His peace needs to shout from the curl on our lips and the soft glow of our eyes.

Perhaps the young don’t know how to be stressed, and the elderly are practiced enough not to worry so much.  For the rest of us in the middle who live in the sometimes panic, or pleasure, of everyday life, we need to work on smiling more often, and especially at strangers.  Sincere, real smiles that show the youthful love of God, and the time honored familiarity of His peace.  And maybe, like the girl sitting next to me, we can show some uncommon trust as well.

Let friends and strangers see Christ in your smile.

Thanks for reading.

P.S.  I eventually made it home!

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