by Dave Markwell

I have flown on a plane many times throughout my life. During the countless hours I have spent shoe-horned in a too-small seat, I had never actually witnessed the airline-provided barf bag in action. I “hadn’t” witnessed this, until I “had”. I have doodled on the bags. I have put my gum in them. And I have joked about them. I never really appreciated their value until a cross country flight a few years ago when my daughter changed the tense from “hadn’t” to “have”.

While traveling from Seattle to New York to visit my wife’s family for the holidays, while seated square in the middle of the coach section, my pale-faced little eight year old girl looked at me with desperate eyes and a sweaty forehead and I knew what time it was.

It is not without an expansive history that I have to understand when she is going to blast off. I have been barfed on many times. These experiences sharpen the instincts and, if I do say so myself, I am a world-class puke-spotter. I am a finely-tuned machine with eagle eyes and swift hands. I can move objects I don’t wish to be sprayed with chunks or retrieve a preemptive towel with astonishing speed. But, I try to avoid the sometimes-too-late reactionary measures with my vigilant eye. Prevention is the key. Barf happens; Cleaning up barf is the result of carelessness while on watch. I am not careless.

While on the plane upon recognizing the subtle, yet significant markers, I anxiously and quickly retrieved and unfurled the heaven-sent little white bag. I sealed its edges securely around my girl’s ears and held on tight. She did her business and I did mine, which always involves some gagging. When she was finished, she did what she always does. She fell asleep. She leaned against my shoulder and passed out. Throwing up is hard work.

While reflecting on this episode, while I am certainly proud of my proficiency in first recognizing, then responding to my daughter’s plight, I am more proud that I have a shoulder for her to lean on. This shoulder has served to comfort, console or just “be there”. A shoulder is a powerful thing and being free with them is important.

We all have shoulders to lend our friends, spouses and children. With these instruments, we should give haphazardly. Hugs or slugs, our shoulders allow access to our hearts. From a pat on the shoulder to a head on the shoulder, these anatomies allow us to share our good bits. And sharing them is the whole point to having them.

So, this holiday season, be free with a shoulder for family and friends who need them. Accept theirs, as well. They need us to need their shoulders, too. Receiving IS giving. Receive well. Smile, hug, be warm-inside and out. Be grateful. Be kind. ‘Tis the season for many things and MY wish for YOU, is all of the good ones!!!

– Dave

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]

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