Zoot

United States of America

Saxophonist
Writer
Rocket Scientist
One of these is a lie

Message to Readers

“I try, if I’m having a terrible day, not to put that terrible out into the world.”
~Lin-Manuel Miranda

“Pessimism isn’t smarter than optimism. In this life, the bravest thing you can be is an optimist.”
-The Flash (2014)

The Paper Airplane Project

July 4, 2019

FREE WRITING

1
(CHALLENGE AT THE END)

    We sit at the gate in the airport, bored out of our minds. We’re an hour and a half early for our flight and there’s absolutely nothing to do. The gate is empty and we are all in desperate need of coffee.
    My brother pulls out a special parting gift from high school for the summer: summer work. He has the right idea. He could get it done while we’re sitting here. There’s just one problem. He forgot a notebook. This means that he can’t write down any of the work that he does. But my father saves the day. He pulls out a notepad for my brother to write down the work he has. Immediately, he tries to tear out a piece of paper but fails. There’s only a slight rip at the top, but it’s too noticeable to him so he hands it to me. 
    I gladly take it. A writer and paper go together like peanut butter and jelly. 
    Then, I get an idea. I fold the paper in half, first horizontally and then diagonally. Eventually, I end up with the iconic triangle shape of a paper airplane. Yes, that’s correct. I made a paper airplane at an airport. I know. I’m so clever.
    By this point, I’ve lost the interest of my family. My brother is drowned in summer work and my parents are lost in their phones. 
    So I relish in the glory when the paper airplane hits my mother in between her face and her phone.  It distracts her from her game. She looks up and smiles at me. “It’s a paper airplane.”
    I nod. “Throw it back to me.”
    She tosses it back, but I can’t manage to catch it. It falls onto the seat gently, but is still intact. 
    My father motions for me to toss it to him, so I do. This little game of catch continues until I accidentally throw it at an innocent bystander. She’s an elderly woman who smiles graciously when it lands at her feet. She quickly tosses it back and the game between my family continues. 
    But I can’t help observing the way she changes after that meeting. Her severe, stressed frown straightens into a smile. She seems happier.
    I look down at the little paper object in my hands. You’re more powerful than you look. Then I toss it to my brother, who keeps the game going. There’s another thing I see. As the game goes on, my family is talking and smiling and laughing. If I had left them alone, they would still be lost in their devices, drowned in a stormy sea of distraction. We wouldn’t be talking. This rejected piece of paper has given us a rare commodity in this world: joy. It’s a wonderful gift.
    Eventually, the game comes to an end. My father and my brother take a trip to the restroom. But as I look down at the airplane once again, something tells me that its flight is far from over.
    My mother smiles. “Throw it to me again.”
    It’s just her and me, and I trust her, so I tell her my plan. “I’m going to give this to some little kids.”
    ”Why?” She asks.
    ”Because I can,” I reply. “Because I’m too old to make toys like this. Besides, I think they’d like it.”
    She just shrugs. “Go ahead.”
    I look around and spot two little kids with a mother. They look a little rowdy, but I figure that my game will calm them down. As I walk towards them, however, a tall, scary looking man joins the family. He’s the father. I shy away. I know I shouldn’t judge people based on the way they look, but he looked scary. I didn’t want to start off vacation by getting in trouble or being embarrassed. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m a sixteen-year-old making paper airplanes. But for some reason, I just couldn’t force myself to go over there. 
    Then, I hear a very happy little kid and I turn around. Sitting behind us at the gate is a family of three. There’s a mother, a father, and a son who cannot sit still for the life of him. He’s tiny with brown button eyes and a cute little bowl cut. 
    I nod to my mother. “I’m going to throw it to him.”
    She shrugs. “Go ahead.”
    The seats are situated so that if we were to sit like normal people, we would be sitting back-to-back.
    At this moment, I do not feel like a normal person, so I throw myself onto the chair directly across from him. I put my knees where a person’s butt would go and perch my elbow so that I can throw the airplane. I wait until he’s looking and then we’re a go for launch.
    He squeals and catches it, handing it to his mother so that he can finish his cracker. He laughs and lives vicariously through her as she and I throw it back and forth. He takes this time to finish his crackers. 
    Once he finishes the pack, I throw it to him and he squeals. “You try it,” I tell him.
    He stares at the little piece of paper. It looks so giant in his tiny hands. He’s confused, but his mother and father help him throw it back to me. After a while, they stop helping and he throws it perfectly. Even I can catch it.
    A couple of times, he relapses and tries to throw it facing the wrong direction, but he always fixes it. And he’s just so happy. All seven of us -the four of us and the three of them- are watching with laughter.
    It feels good. I don’t even know this boy’s name or where he’s from, but it’s exhilarating to hear him laugh. I don’t think they could’ve paid me to keep the paper airplane. It brought them joy, and that’s such a hard thing to find in the world today, but it’s here in ample amounts. I brought it. I made it. I was able to bring a little joy to random strangers. Something about it warms my body.
    I am sad when the times comes to board the plane and leave my paper one behind. I leave it with the boy, and I hope he doesn’t take for granted the gift it gave him. I hope he never loses that joy. 
    I don’t know how the story ends because I don’t know where the paper airplane ended up. That would make a beautiful story. To see how far it went, how much kindness it spread. That is the goal.
    I have a pact with myself. A little promise to shine some light on my path when I feel like I’m going through the dark. It’s just a small one. I’m not trying to change the world. Just one person. My sunshine is brighter when I can share it with someone.
    I want to know just how much dark I can make light. Why? Because in this world of never-ending shadows and darkness, light is the most valuable resource. This is funny, considering it’s free. It costs nothing to smile. It costs nothing to make someone laugh.
    It costs nothing to make a paper airplane. 
    This is my challenge. I’m calling it the Paper Airplane Project. Find ways to make a happy imprint on someone’s day. Make them smile. Make them laugh. Bring them a little joy and tell them to keep the circle going. That’s how you really make a difference. If all else fails, make a paper airplane. You’ll shed a little light into the darkness.
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/443252788298412582/ - Make a Paper Airplane Today!
I know this isn’t a real challenge. It’s more of a “spread happiness and kindness and the reward is your own self-fulfillment!” (TM) sort of thing. It sounds super cheesy, but believe me, it makes you feel good. I didn’t want to make this a contest because I think it would take away from that sort of effect. But, if your experience happens to change someone’s day, like mine, please write about it and link it to a comment. (I don’t know how to use the search bar) I will read it and like it and follow you. Thanks! Have a good day!
 

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