We were boarding the plane, heading to Florida. Finally. After hours of sitting around, waiting on a part to be delivered so that the craft could be repaired, we were hopeful to get out of Salt Lake City and on with our planned trip. Everyone was tired – or at least it seemed that way. Some people had spent a lot of time in their own ‘space’, oblivious to the other passengers. A few were grumpy. Most had been anxious, watching the clock.

Then there was her… a young lady of maybe 11 or 12 years.  With a smile as big and sunny as a bright summer day, she didn’t seem one bit tired. Or grumpy. Or bothered. She was excited and chatty and delighted to be traveling. Constantly in motion, she went about visiting with fellow travelers, sharing a smile or funny story or shaking a hand or giving a hug. Once she’d made the rounds of stranded travelers, faces weren’t so long, burdens seemed lighter, and the tension had eased to almost non-existent.

People exchanged pleasantries instead of scowls when it was time to board. There was no shoving or pushing or grand-standing in line. You would have thought the Good Fairy had come, sprinkling magical happy dust in our area of the concourse.  All because of her.

Her name was Emily. She was full of life and joy and hope. Her sense of humor was infectious. She was beautiful. Even without one strand of hair on her head. Even without the use of her legs. Even stuck in her wheelchair. Even knowing she was soon to have yet another surgery, and deal with a lot more pain.

I watched her tool around in that wheelchair and light up the place. How could one little girl make such a big difference? She was good at what she did…. Good luck to anyone who wanted to remain angry or bothered. With Emily around, that would be a stretch.  Clearly, she wasn’t burdened with the turmoil of that cancer eating away at her body. She was more focused on the portion of herself that would never be worn down nor withered away.  Emily seemed happily secure in a knowledge that her Father in heaven was watching over her and that her Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, walked with her through the ‘kind of hard stuff’ [her words.]

This gifted girl preached powerful sermons that offended no one- regardless of their faith or lack thereof. People were smitten with her. They felt her love. It permeated her being so completely that some of it, somehow, seeped out of her and into them. It was amazing. Emily was a real, live example of one who has “obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” [Moroni 7:3.]

When I visited with this little angel of a girl, I said two words to her – then my eyes welled up with tears, and I could say no more. Instead, I shrugged my shoulders and gave her a hug. The two words? “Thank you.” There was so much more I felt, but no words seemed adequate. Her tender smile told me that she understood what I was unable to say.

We settled into our seats and eventually landed in Florida, all of us heading off in our own directions. I saw Emily rolling her way down the airport luggage area, laughing and smiling as she and her family left the building. I was there to speak to a group for a Know Your Religion program. She was there to participate in a Make A Wish event – her own. I figured that Disney World would never be the same, having had this beautiful little daughter of God grace their amusement park.

I made a mental note about Emily and filed it away in my mind and heart.  Though I never saw or heard of her again, I have often thought of her. Mostly, when I’ve had a hard day, when I’m feeling very weary and spent, or must sort through the next big learning curve in life. Funny how her sweet face comes to my mind’s eye, and I remember that I have a choice in how I act, regardless of what life’s journey brings.

I’m sure that, years ago, Emily entered into her rest with the Lord. No doubt, she left behind countless folks whose lives are better for having met her. Her kind-of-hard-stuff has helped my perspective many a time.

I’m grateful for that delayed flight. It introduced me to hope and happiness in a whole new way.  Maybe it was one of those “wake up calls” that allows us the opportunity to see more clearly the way a disciple of Christ can act.  Her example continues to urge me to try a little harder or be a little better. It reminds me that I can conquer, with Christ and by personal decisions, all the kind-of-hard-stuff.

Thank you, Emily.

Vickey has taught Church youth & family programs for 25 years, and has written books, hundreds of columns, & created hundreds of songs all with the intent of growing goodness and pointing people to Christ. Her latest venture is the creation of a website to focus on, bring attention to, and grow the goodness in this world. Visit her website at www.goodnessmatters.com