A long way back

Take a look at what people are doing on an airplane. You never know what you will find…

Do you ever get lost in your work?

There’s the good kind of lost, the flow kind, where productivity and pleasure merge and you’re doing good work well.

Then there’s the other kind. I notice this a great deal on business trips. With this kind of lost, you become so focused on getting to a place, getting through your meetings and then getting home that work becomes all there is. It takes its toll on you and sometimes the other parts and pieces of who you are get diverted or misplaced. Or even lost.

But sometimes, you can find them in the most unlikely situations.

As I write this, I’m on a long flight home, bleary-eyed and pre-occupied with all that has occurred in business meetings today and all I have to do when I get back to the office. Work, at this point, seems pretty all-consuming. But something very unusual happens.

I have to go to the restroom. No, that’s not the unusual part. It’s the return trip back to my seat that is different. For tonight, for a reason I can only attribute to grace, I pay attention to what people on this plane are doing.

This particular flight is loaded with kids and families returning from Spring Break, so I spot relatively few business laptops running Excel spreadsheets or iPads glowing in the cabin’s dim interior. Instead, I witness – I actually take notice of – the following:

  • A few movies
  • A few magazines thumbed through distractedly
  • A number of people eating, drinking, talking and sleeping
  • Several open books on laps and tray tables, grey words blurred on cream colored pages
  • An animated couple intent on their card game
  • A woman scribbling numbers on a square Suduko page
  • An elderly man in a multi-pocketed vest absorbed in a guide to North American birds
  • Another man writing down notations to a music score, green pen on yellow paper

 These last two capture more than my attention. As I pass by each in quick succession, something in me stirs. Even before I reach my seat, I’m aware of God using them to remind me that I too often lose sight of on busy work trips like this of one simple fact: There’s more to life.

I’m no birder and my piano composition skills are quite rusty, but I love, among other things, the outdoors and music. They bring fullness and an added dimensionality to life. Thus, as I witness people on this flight immersed in their passions, I’m reminded of my own, of pursuits and relationships beyond work that I too easily put aside, forget or ignore.


Next time you’re on a flight for business and you feel drained or a bit lost to yourself, pay close attention to the diverse things people are doing around you.

 You may be surprised at what you find.

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