I was on my way back home yesterday on a flight from DC to Atlanta when I saw a young boy being escorted onto the plane by a flight attendant. He is what is deemed an "unaccompanied minor" by the airlines. As he walked onto the plane, I could see his face was still wet from tears he shed while telling his father goodbye. His eyes were all red, and he looked really scared. My heart broke for this little boy, and made me think of my three children I had just dropped off at their dad's the day before.
I wondered why his father wasn't flying back with him. I wondered why his mother didn't fly up to DC to go get him. I know that children over a certain age fly unaccompanied all the time, and it shouldn't be that big of a deal. This little boy seemed so clearly upset and bothered by being alone. There was another unaccompanied minor that was sitting next to him. She was a very confident looking young girl...she looked younger than he was, but I would soon find out that was not the case. The flight attendants warned both of the children to stay in their seats when we arrived in Atlanta so they could escort them both off the plane. Afterwards, there were a few moments of awkward silence. I felt sorry for the little boy...I figured he was probably embarrassed about crying and now too shy to talk to the little girl seated next to him. I felt sorry for her too. I thought she probably was scared to talk to him for fear he would burst into tears at any moment. My thoughts of pity for the two of them were interrupted by the sound of their chatter!
The little boy apologized for the crying and explained to the little girl that he was just sad because he was leaving his dad's and didn't want his summer vacation to end. He introduced himself as Ryan. Ryan then went on to ask the girl what her name was, and she answered. They talked about Harry Potter, iPods, Angry Birds, school, sports, summer break, where they each lived, who they had been visiting, divorce, siblings, cousins, step-parents...they didn't stop talking the entire flight. I was reading my book and overhearing lots of the conversation because they were seated directly across from me. By the end of the flight, I was just feeling sorry for myself...I had NEVER had the courage to strike up a conversation with a complete and total stranger, and then continue that conversation for a full hour and a half. It's not that I'm stuck up and don't want to talk to anybody...and in general I believe that most people don't take the initiative to strike up such conversations because they don't want to be seen as a pest. I don't want to bother anybody. The man next to me might just want to sit in peace and read his newspaper (most likely he does!!). That's all I usually want too! On the flip side, I really don't get out much and should take the opportunity to meet new people when and where I can.
All in all, it's pretty ironic that I learned something about socializing and meeting new people from some 12 year old boy that I initially thought was a shy, awkward kid...he sure proved me wrong!