What follows is an open letter one of my writer friends posted on Facebook on September 18, 2014. It has gone out to literally hundreds of writers who know and love this woman. And it's never good to antagonize writers...especially not the ones who write suspense or mystery...
A letter to the pack of 20-something hyenas who tormented a man for four hours on a United flight from Chicago to SanFran on Tuesday...
Look. I get it. You're young and attractive and think the world is all about you. And I'm sure you were all just delighted to be traveling together. But seriously? The best way to spend your time on a four-hour flight is to mock this man? To call him fat as he's sitting down? To torment him by shoving your elbow into his ribs (the girl sitting next to him), putting your seat back all the way so he can't get out to use the bathroom (the guy sitting in front of him) and refusing to move when he asks you...four times; opening the tray on the back of his seat and slamming it back up over and over and over (the guy sitting behind him); and texting back and forth asking each other how far you think you can push him, saying at least he doesn't stink...and all the other things you did to show him just how insignificant he is and how very important you all are.
I wonder, would you have been so smug, so self-involved, so flat-out cruel if you had a clue what he's endured in his life? Would you care that this man you were so delighted to harass endured years of horrific abuse as a child, and yet, somehow, as an adult, he has a warrior's heart that champions others? That he does everything he can to protect and care for those in jeopardy. That his heart breaks for those who are hurt and hurting, and he offers encouragement and prayers for total strangers. That he's the first to step up and help when someone needs it.
Or would it have made a difference if you'd known that he was coming home after two weeks of spending days upon days in the hospital room of his 87-year-old father? That he prayed for his dad, watching as he almost died, several times. That he's been caring for his mother, who is blind from macular degeneration and struggling to deal with the new reality of her husband's injuries from a terrible car accident. Would you have left this weary, heartbroken man alone if you'd known he had spent the last two weeks supporting his brothers, who have been caring for his dad, or that he's endured painful encounters with people he loves, people stressed to the edge of brittle from battling life-and-death situations for weeks?
If none of that would have stopped you, if showing simple kindness and humanity is beyond you, then let me just say this. Yes, he held his silence while you had your fun. Yes, you got away with it. But keep this little tidbit in mind. That tired, broken man also happens to be a Master Security Specialist. And he could break you in two. But he didn't react to your torture because he was too weary, too emotionally exhausted, and oh-so-tired of conflict. And because he chose to respond to your evil with true righteousness. He turned the other cheek. And let you have your fun.
So next time you all get on a plane together, when a man like my husband, to whom you all were so gleefully cruel, sits down beside you, remember this: not everyone has my husband's sense of honor or restraint. And one day, you'll know what it is to reap what you've sown. If not in this life, then in the next. Count on it.
Oh, and one more thing. I am praying for you. Because it's clear you need it.
I guarantee you, this "pack of hyenas" will be killed off about fourteen times with varying levels of torment...and that's just the ones to reach publication. The rest of us will kill them off with even more gruesome levels of torment in scenes which will never get out of the laptop basement.
But, perhaps more importantly, the hero of this story will show up in even more novels. This man-- whom my husband and I have had the privilege of meeting--has such a kind soul it radiates from his eyes. And I'm sure I'm not the only writer with another friend who endured abuse as a child and still found a way to go back home and return good to those who hurt her. These are the quiet heroes of life, the ones who deserve to be emulated, the ones we immortalize in fiction as a way of teaching ourselves to be more like them in real life.
Until next time,