The “Christmas Spirit” Lives––in Airports

The “Christmas Spirit” Lives––in Airports


This year, as Christmas approaches, it may seem like the traditional “Christmas Spirit” of “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” is dead. But a new friend based in Berlin sent me a poem last week that reminded me that the true Christmas spirit is not gone, but simply in hiding. It doesn’t take a lot to coax it out of its hiding place. And, of course, food (both spiritual and physical) always helps. It can even emerge at airports, including Gate A-4 at the Albuquerque International Sunport.

The first time I read this poem years ago, it went straight to that special space in my heart and reminded me that THIS is the world I want for everyone. This vision is why HoonArts exists, and what keeps me going despite the struggles of building a business in a world that sometimes seems to have gone completely crazy.

And despite the hassles of air travel, airports are often the grocery store for this universal spirit of connection, if we just look around us. The poem reminded me of the joy I feel every time I greet a family member, one of my artisan partners, or a visiting delegation of strangers from another part of the world.


October 2016 Open World Delegation from Tajikistan at ABQ Sunport. They arrived as strangers and left as friends.


 I hope this poem helps you charm that spirit out of the shadows this holiday season!


Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal (“Gate A-4”)

by Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any
Please come to the gate immediately
Well -- one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own
gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,

Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor,
wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her.
What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four
hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway,
min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew -- however
poorly used -
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical
treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we're fine, you'll get
there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on
the plane and
Would ride next to her -- southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call
some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took
up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her
life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies --
little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts --
out of her bag --
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It
was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler
from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo -- we were all covered
with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from
huge coolers --
Non-alcoholic -- and the two little girls for our
flight, one African

American, one Mexican American -- ran around serving
us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar

And I noticed my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands --

Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some

medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling
tradition. Always

Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones
and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate -- once the crying of
confusion stopped
-- has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other
women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

Poetry is often best “consumed” in its spoken form, so if you’d like to hear the poet read her own work, check out this video:

The poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, is a living example of a bridge between cultures. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother an American of German and Swiss descent. Nye split her adolescence between Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas. To learn more about her life, click here.

We at HoonArts wish you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays filled with the true “Christmas spirit.” Let’s keep working together to coax that spirit out of its hiding place, and not just during the holiday season.

1 comment

  • Andrea Heckman

    Thanks for this poem especially right now as our airports are clogged and extreme weather! What a beautiful moment and yes it can still happen anywhere anytime. Thank you and all the artists you represent for connecting worlds. We met at the American Anthropology meetings several years ago.

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