The man looked about 40. He smiled as he stood up in the airport terminal. Something, maybe it was how his eyes roamed without focus, or the way he took cautious, little steps, told me that he needed assistance. He soon received it, as a grey-haired man who I suspected is his father, stood and took his arm into the crook of his own. The two of them, wearing similar plaid button-ups, tucked into their jeans, walked off arm-in-arm toward the bathrooms.

The whole thing took less than a minute. But it hit me in a wave of emotion so profound that I averted my misty eyes. I glanced down at the floor. I was uncomfortable. There was something so beautiful in the moment. Maybe it was the expression of pure joy on the son’s face. Maybe it was thinking of the promise that father made to his son and to himself, when born, that he’d do anything possible to ensure a good life for the boy.

So much came with that snippet of life, but I wondered why I had averted my eyes. When I was a boy, I remember watching this silly movie with my sister and being overcome with emotion at the end of it. It was a silly movie starring a sea lion, which loosely ripped off Free Willie, called Andre.

And my sister asked me, “Why are you crying?” Spoilers: Everything ends happily. And so she asked me why happiness would result in my tearing up.

I wonder if I’m alone in this. I thought it about it today, and I realized, right as I was about to stare at the dirty carpet a few feet away from my feet instead of the moment itself, that there was something in that interaction the provided to me a glimpse, however brief, of the very face of God — of truth, of love, of the kindness and simple grace that fills a parent, of the hope of a better tomorrow, of the work necessary to get there — and I felt so overwhelmed by it all, I couldn’t help but tear up.

When they walked away, I said a small prayer to be able to see more moments like this, whether they leave me misty-eyed or not.

Author of Populace; former journalist, farmer, librarian, burger flipper, bagboy, groundskeeper, political organizer, and shill.

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