The Little Girl Who Laughed

By D.J. Vanas © 2009

It was one of those days... It was earlier than humans should be awake. I had been going through a challenging month that was accentuated by a tough week.

My travel schedule had me run down and I was already missing home, my wife, my girls and my bed. Heck, I even missed the cat – and that’s saying something. I was in a foul mood on my flight to Salt Lake City.

Behind me, sat a mother with a baby on her lap and next to her was her daughter of five or six years old. This tiny sprite wore ribbons in her pigtailed hair and a vibrantly colored dress. As the plane moved from the jet way, the little girl jabbered excitedly and peppered her mother with questions at full volume to the annoyance of the other passengers.

We taxied out to the runway and I buried my nose deeper into my National Geographic, determined to tune the noise out. Then, as we accelerated down the runway, it started…

This little girl squealed in delight at the rush of speed, again at lift off and still again when the wheels came up.


Her laugh was light, spontaneous and unavoidable, to her mother’s embarrassment. Her mom apologized to surrounding passengers, explaining this was the little girl’s first flight.

The girl laughed like we do in school when our friend makes a ridiculous face just after the teacher demands quiet – or when the boss passes gas at a committee meeting. It’s terribly funny and we know we shouldn’t laugh, but we simply can’t help it!

The joy bubbles up like a geyser and bursts from within us. As the little girl exploded with laughter at each bump, dip and turn of this choppy ascent, something powerful happened. I got infected.

I started to giggle and snort to myself, eventually covering my face in vain to stop the erupting joy. I felt my spirit grow suddenly light and tears of hilarity moistened my eyes.

The other passengers in my row were asleep which raised the stakes on my attempted restraint. I felt my balloon of tension ease and the pain of the day melting away.  As we hit a patch of calm air, I realized that over time I had become a bit like Mr. Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. I’d flown a million miles in five years and it had become as common as driving – or breathing – for me. Or even on days like this one, a burden to bear.

This little girl, this little teacher, reminded me of what I’d viewed many times, but had stopped seeing.  There is joy and adventure (and should be) on the journey and it’s OK to let laughter burst forth when you feel it. Just make sure you don’t do it in the meeting I mentioned earlier.

Be open to the joy and simple pleasures around you. Even in the worst of times, our lives are filled with them.  Be willing to smile and even, heaven help us, laugh when you’re moved to do so. Because I was wrapped in a cloak of gloom and doom, I almost missed the lesson that day. I feel so blessed that, thanks to the little girl who laughed, I didn’t.

D.J.’s upcoming schedule:


24 Wyoming National Guard (Cheyenne, WY)
25 Red Cross (Colorado Springs, CO)
27-28 Native Wellness Institute (San Diego, CA)


2-3 University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee, WI)
5  Denver Museum of Nature and Science      (Denver, CO)
6  UNCF (Albuquerque, NM)
8  U.S. Office of Personnel Management (Denver, CO)
14-15 EDAW (Estes Park, CO)
19 NIC Marketing Conference (Phoenix, AZ)
20 U.S. Forest Service

D.J. Eagle Bear Vanas (Odawa) is a nationally acclaimed motivational storyteller, success coach and the author of the celebrated book, The Tiny Warrior: A Path to Personal Discovery & Achievement  and audio CD series The Warrior Within.

He can be reached at (719) 282-7747 or On The Net: