Six Years Old on a Plane

One Christmas when I was small, my family flew to Florida to spend the holiday with my grandparents. Our family of seven rarely flew places when I was younger, since corralling five children through an airport is both costly and (I imagine) exhausting.

The travel day, already an adventure, became more exciting when we ate ice cream for lunch, and climaxed when I was given the privilege of sitting by the family patriarch—the Dad—on the airplane.

Where some would take this opportunity to put a screen in front of my face, he spent the whole flight paying attention to me. We played games, he taught me how to make silly putty balls and cubes, and together we drew and colored.

Every choice that you make influences someone else.

Years later, if he had chosen to do his own thing and let me do mine, I probably wouldn’t remember the flight. But when he chose to invest time in his young daughter, he unintentionally gave me a gift that’s even more valuable than knowing how to make a square with silly putty.

He gave me a memory.

Next time you’re choosing between plane flight activities (or a score of other daily time-spending choices) remember: It takes more energy to invest in people—your children, your family, your friends. You have to care more, listen more, give more.

But in the long run, you’ll have more—memories, shared experiences, relational equity—and you’ll be glad you chose to pay attention.