We arrived at the little airport in Ashland, Alabama, at 9 am. Although it didn’t look much like an airport. Actually, it looked like a pole barn in the North Alabama woods. Somewhere nearby, you could hear banjos.
The Butlers arrived with Becca, their daughter. Becca is 11 years old and blind. She is a child with more raw energy output than a small municipal dam. She leapt out of the backseat, brandishing her white cane, vibrating with pure excitement.
“I’m gonna fly today!” she shouted as she began applauding herself. “I’m so STINKING excited!”
I first met Becca by email last September. I did not expect to become such good friends with an 11-year-old. But you can’t plan these things.
Our friendship officially happened when she first hugged me. Becca gives good hugs. At the time, we had just completed our first lunch date, eating at Bama Bucks, a steakhouse and wild game restaurant where they have a cage of wild deer grazing across the street, sort of like lobsters
at a seafood restaurant. Before I left the restaurant Becca hugged me tightly and said, “I really think we should be friends.”
And so it was. We became instant pals. We wear friendship bracelets and everything.
Fast forward. Several months ago, I was on a commercial airplane, about to go make a speech somewhere. I was flying livestock class where you have to ride with a chicken on your lap. My phone lit up while we were still taxiing on the runway. It was a text from Becca.
“What are you doing?” the text read.
I told her I was about to fly to Kansas City. She told me she had never flown before. “Would you like to fly someday?” I asked her. Her text came back as something akin to, “Does the Pope go in the woods?”
One thing led to another. And here we were. At the…