Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The little girl on the plane

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published June 12, 2014

A little girl and her parents sat behind me on a flight from New Orleans to Atlanta. She looked to be about three years old. Her mom was sleeping. I was engrossed in a book, but not that engrossed that I could not hear the conversation between the little girl and her dad.

She had all kinds of questions. Her dad answered them as best he could. He also pointed out whatever he thought might be of interest to his daughter—how the plane was flying high in the air, and what the wings did, and how if she looked hard she could see cities and rivers and mountains far below. She took all this in and had questions of her own—who were the people living “down there” and did her dad know them. And why did everything look so small and far away. The kind of questions little kids ask, questions about things that grownups take for granted. With age, some wisdom does accrue.

There were times she was frightened, like when the jet began to roll a bit with the wind. And her ears apparently hurt so she wanted to know why. She did not cry. Her dad reassured her over and over again that everything was OK, that they would soon be home, and that mommy would soon wake up. The little girl listened and was satisfied and apparently forgot about the pain in her ears as more questions poured out of her.

I put my book away and listened and remembered. I remembered my mom and dad and how they must have spoken to me the same way. For there were many times, I am sure, when I was afraid of the dark when I crawled into my bed. My dad or mom would come into the room and assure me that things were OK, that there were no monsters in the closet or outside my window, sitting on the roof. Then a kiss goodnight, and off to sleep I went. I did not like it when the car went through tunnels. And I was petrified of visits to the doctor. All these crises and more were softened by words, by hugs, by kisses.

The little girl on the plane had her fears eased by the comfort of her dad. All that he said turned out to be true. Everything on the trip turned out fine, and chances are much better than average that they arrived home safe and sound.

As we grow up, things can get frazzled. As much as we may think we are in control of life and its ongoing movement, the winds can tend to shift and we realize how little, if any, power we have to right our wings and get home. But the kindness and love shown by that father for his little girl brought home to me the need we all have for an assurance that no matter what happens to us in life, we are in the hand of God.

And that does not mean that everything will always go according to our plans and designs. Age brings sickness, frailty, loss of all kinds and a rude awakening to the fact that we are dependent upon a providence of which we are not the source. But the source is there. It is always there. I heard it behind me as I rode from New Orleans to Atlanta. I was in New Orleans for some medical tests, and the nurses, doctors and technicians who ran the tests on me assured me that I was doing well, that things were fine, and that there was no need to worry. I thought of them and their kindness when I heard the father speaking to his little girl.

But there will come a time when news that is not so good will make its appearance. There will be voices then, too, assuring me that the ride home has just begun, a ride of faith that stretches on forever. I have heard those voices all my life. Whether we are aware of it or not, it is the voice of God speaking through us, softly assuring us that he is here with us, and will raise us up when the time comes to switch carriers.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at