I picked up a book at the airport last weekend, the New York Times bestseller “Little Princes – One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal” by Conor Grennan. This book is a treasure. It’s nonfiction; the author is the man behind the very real Next Generation Nepal (NGN) nonprofic organization, and now also a father of two. The story promised a lot, but gave far more. It is a true adventure about a bachelor finding family – the families of abandoned children he met in Nepal, and also the family of his own he was about to create.
I hadn’t flown in forever, but my flight was one of the work trips that couldn’t be postphoned or avoided. I couldn’t get sick until it was over. I couldn’t be too tired until I got back home. No excuses, I had to go. Having “Little Princes” with me took me around the world and to life on the edge – without leaving my seat.
The writing style is breezy and conversational. It is the easiest thing to read that I’ve ever picked up, and the hardest to put down. The portraits he creates of the children he met in Nepal are warm and close, like sitting beside them. It is difficult to imagine these same boys and girls were victims of child trafficking, and that many more cases like these remain unsolved. I have mixed feelings about people traveling to distant lands where they don’t speak the language and don’t know the customs, planning to make a change for the better. But Conor frames these issues of foreign origins and charity in his story with humor and honesty. I truely admired the man when the tale was told.
The NYC subway signs where I commute to work most days, say “If you see something, say something.” It is a homeland security addition. Conor Grennan saw something when he went traveling, that he didn’t expect to see. But Conor didn’t just say something, he did something. Something wonderful. I’ll have to not say what, so that you can have the pleasure of the book experience yourself.
On the way back to NYC, the passenger in the seat next to me was upgraded to first class just before take off, and so he left, leaving two vacant seats next to me. It seemed like impossibly good luck. I was about half way through the exciting adventure story of “Little Princes”. But a few minutes later a tall, slim woman carrying a tiny young baby stood beside me. She smiled and she told the baby the seats next to me were her seats.
The entire trip, the mother chatted to the baby in a sweet soprano baby voice. No matter that she had no words, the baby was communicating very effectively none the less with gestures, burbles and cries. The baby stared at me. I didn’t react. The baby reached over to me and crawled over her mother, pressing up right next to me. I didn’t play. The mother told the baby I was reading. I kept reading. The entire plane became baby’s toy, through the creative monologue of Mother. Baby jumped, bounced, crawled, cried, nursed, fussed, reached, patted.
When we touched down back in New York City, I had finished the book and put it away. I looked at the baby closely. Mother told the baby that I liked books and baby liked books too. I smiled at both of them. What a pretty baby she was. I didn’t say I take a muscle relaxant before the flight, and anyway I’m not chatty to begin with, I’m reading about the horrors of child trafficking, and I dislike flying. I did say the baby was very, very good – and they both beamed at me with the same expression. Bathed in the uninterrupted stream of love coming at her, the baby seemed happy.
Looking at them as we waited to get off the plane, I thought about the large dose of love the Mother gave this little baby. No matter how little or how much luck you have in the world, love is the most essential thing for a child. Maybe next time I fly, I’ll try to bring my daughters along and leave the medicine at home. And I’m certainly hoping Conor Grennan writes another book, so I can bring it along with me.