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My flight was cancelled.  And I wasn’t happy.  Within moments of being notified, I was on the phone with American Airlines trying to find a different flight home.  After reviewing a list of mutually unattractive options, I selected the one arriving in Wichita first.  Now, instead of a relatively short one-layover trip, my journey home would take all night.  I was less than enthusiastic.  My first of two layovers was in Los Angeles International Airport.

I arrived bleary eyed, hungry, and aggravated.  I looked at the clock… it was after midnight.

There’s something surreal about being in a major hub airport in the early hours of the morning.  Many of the shops and restaurants that buzz with activity during the day are closed and dark.  The walkways are much quieter, the walkers wearier.  As I scanned the faces of the people waiting at my gate, it wasn’t difficult to guess what we all had in common—an empty, comfortable bed somewhere that far outclassed the worn vinyl chairs we were sitting in.


As the moments passed, the airline staff mercifully produced cots.  Those with long layovers could lay down for a while before their next flight.  Suddenly these simple, well-used canvas cots were in high demand.  A line formed, and, humorously, when some people feared they were running out, they began arguing about who deserved to sleep more.

I watched as one gentleman quietly and patiently waited for his turn.  Arriving at the front of the line, he asked for four cots.  He was at a gate close by, and waiting for an international flight.  It was clear he spoke very little English.  Once the airline staffer gave him the cots, he walked back toward his gate.

About an hour later, on my way to find an open snack shop, I walked past his gate.  What I saw impacted me deeply.  There he sat, obviously exhausted but wide awake, surrounded by a circle of cots—on one, his wife, and on the other three, his kids.

He held in his lap a purse and a diaper bag.  The floral patterns and feminine features of the bags made it quite clear that they belonged to his wife, yet he seemed completely unembarrassed to guard them.  He held them close, and from his protective grip, one would think they held a million dollars.  Meanwhile, his wife and kids slept peacefully… so peacefully, in fact, that I felt a twinge of jealousy at their ability to rest in such a strange and active environment.

I was deeply moved by such an amazing picture.  A picture of a dad and a husband who keeps watch.  A man who invites his family to circle around him and rest in the knowledge that he is there… protecting, watching, and standing guard.  A man whose actions are so comforting as to inspire his family to feel familiarity in an unfamiliar scene, and to experience peace and rest in a restless situation.

I want to be that kind of husband… that kind of dad. 

Thanks, sir.  I don’t know your name, where you came from, or where you were headed when our paths crossed at LAX, but you reminded me what real love looks like.  We need more dads like you.

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