My nephew Matt and his fiancee Jen left yesterday morning for a return to St. Louis after spending a week’s vacation with us. I drove them to the airport and we said our goodbyes in the drop-off area.
There was a quiet but very apparent sadness as we hugged and bid farewell and I had a feeling of emptiness as I drove away. That contrasted to the anticipation and feelings of happiness as they arrived a week earlier – I hadn’t seen Matt in nine years and this was our first meeting with Jen.
And as I thought about all the things we had done and places we had taken them (as an aside, if you’ve not visited the Glass Museum in Tacoma – you should go and watch the glass blowing), I started to think that the week’s individual activities were a blur of events but the bookends of greeting and departure stood out.
I’ve often thought that airports are the best places to go when one has a dim view of the human race. In spite of the crowds, lines, and noise, if one looks, there is drama that can remind us of the best in people.
No matter who they are, what they’re wearing, or where they come from, watching the anticipation of arrival followed by the joy as family, friends, and lovers greet each other touches on the shared humanity we share with those strangers.
Similarly, watching the desperate hugs and last looks is a reminder of the losses we all experience. And in departure there is something more profound that haunts every goodbye – the uncertainty of seeing each other again. In that, there is the reminder of (hopefully) distant final loss that we all face.
We have dogs, and dogs may provide the best daily reminder of how we should all treat each other. As we prepare to leave the house, one of our dogs jumps on the couch, curls into a ball and takes on his sad contemplative look; one of the others watches out the window as we drive away. That same dog will maintain a watch out the window all day – both as a guard for the pack and waiting for us to return.
Then when we return – whether minutes, hours, or days – each greets us as if we had been gone for months. The sniffing, licking and jumping remind us that we are important to each of them – as they are to us.
Dogs take nothing for granted.
Maybe that’s a lesson we should all learn in our daily contacts with others. And the next time you need a reminder of the good in people – watch what happens around you the next time you’re in airport.