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Paper Stars at LHR

Updated: Sep 9, 2018

I am sitting at London Heathrow International Airport, fervently folding paper stars and occasionally giving one away. A six hour layover, with a travel assignment, nearly complete that should have been done two days ago - and all I am doing is making paper stars.


Making paper stars at London Heathrow Airport in the UK. My actions reminded myself about the kindness we can bring through a simple exchange of words, or smile, and a token of appreciation.

Once an origami pattern is learned, it is rather easy to recreate the same folds rather mindlessly. After several months of work deadlines and a social itinerary that increased as the weather cooled off in Abu Dhabi, I need the mindlessness.

On this occasion, it gives me time to contemplate. I'm contemplating why I'm making paper stars.


Usually, when I fly over the Christmas holiday, I have a quiver of candy canes delicately tucked in my carry on. I ask check-in agents, security, and flight attendants if I can give them a candy cane and it never fails to put a smile on every face. The small gesture seems to relieve that hectic holiday stress of navigating an airport and security in crowded queues and amongst weather-delayed passengers.


I went candy cane shopping this year, but couldn't find any red and white peppermint stripes at either of the supermarkets I went to in Abu Dhabi, so I decided the night before my trip to make origami Christmas stars. Quickly cutting up colorful magazine pages into squares fit for folding, I popped sheets in my carryon and finished packing.


My first star went to my taxi driver, Mohammad A. He diligently picks me up when I need long taxi rides and reliably picked me and my bags up for my trip to the airport. He sent me a text message after he dropped me in appreciation.


Next I gave one, rather selfishly to the check-in agent in hopes of securing anything but a middle seat I had been unable to change during online check-in. I desperately wanted to change that arrangement. The agent graciously gave me an isle which I subsequently changed to a window at the gate right before boarding.


I gave a star to the happy flight attendant who let me rest most of the flight to London, another to a man who was about to lose his temper with airport security - and his daughter, two men from Africa waiting for their departure from Heathow's Terminal 3, and a woman who walked by and caught my eye while I was folding all that paper.


Partially self motivated, I like the ability to focus my attention away from being poked and prodded, waiting, and following poor airport signage through a maze of partitions and CCTV cameras. Rather than becoming impatient, I think it's healthier to see the people around me and look for opportunities to share some Christmas joy (and prevent the grinch from coming out of myself). It's hard to be a bad person when looking for opportunities to be nice to people - and share a Christmas star.


But the larger reason behind my airport paper star delivery program is to show human kindness in a world where others hardly acknowledge each other - to share the value of human life and reach out with love in a world that is full of discrimination. There is something remarkably refreshing to spend a little time on something - something to be given without any thought of return (except for that window seat)!

And I realized that giving without expectation is what the heart of generosity and gift giving should be. Really, it's exactly what Christmas is about. 

Jesus came to the world to bring redemption and salvation to everyone - everyone. A gift with no expectation that humankind could ever return it in full.


My actions reminded myself about the kindness we can bring through a simple exchange of words, or smile, and a token of appreciation.


I'm not sharing this message on behalf of myself or to pat myself on the back, but rather to share my airport contemplations about kindness, sharing without regard for a person's background, and the value of human interaction so that you might go out and do the same. Inevitably, I believe your lack of expectation will actually return to you in reciprocated kindness - it does feel good to reach out with the smallest bit of unexpected generosity and get a glowing smile in return. And, if I can give a little bit of my time or resources, it gives me hope that other people can as well.


Consider that one of my stars has been bestowed on you, and pass that gift of kindness on to another person. I challenge myself, and you, to find ways that you can give gifts without expectation this year and observe how your life is made richer because of it.


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© 2015 - 2018 Andrea Rip | The Earth Ink. All Rights Reserved Unless Specified.


*Orginally posted by the same author on 23 December 2015 at thearthink.blogspot.com.

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