In the air over Iowa, Catholic connection made


By Judith Costello

Have you ever struck up a conversation with a stranger at the airport? Usually, polite conversation dictates that we confer about the weather or share frustrations with new security procedures.

It seems that every time I travel home to Iowa, amazing conversations blossom outside the parameters of polite repartee. Maybe it’s the air over Iowa.

Last summer, my daughter Brigit and I met a lady from Chicago. She was sending her “difficult” grandson back home early because he begged and whined and sulked all day, every day. She was impressed by Brigit, who is the same age as “the difficult one.” She and Brigit talked for 45 minutes about school, animals and the problem with modern kids! They even said a prayer as I hassled with the gate agent who said I had 10 minutes to go down the corridor for an adjustment to our tickets! After the prayers, the agent suddenly found seats for us!

Before our new Jewish friend left, she gave Brigit a ring made by her father in Russia. She wanted Brigit to remember her. And so we will!


More recently, I was traveling alone. At the airport I sat down next to a woman who was going to Wyoming to see her daughter. We eased into our conversation slowly by talking about children. Then she revealed that her granddaughter, age 10, had announced, “I am going to make out with boys next year, but not have sex.” Apparently, this young girl went into detail about the “freedoms” she and her friends planned to explore in sixth grade. The grandmother was understandably aghast and even more concerned that the girl’s mother seemed unconcerned.

This conversation opened the door to talking about morality, and from there we were suddenly talking about religion. Even though books on “How to Get Along with Others” tell us that religion is a taboo topic, it always seems to come up in the air over Iowa!

Anyway, it turns out the lady was also Catholic, but was shy to admit it. When we both acknowledged our faith, it was almost as if we wanted to jump up and celebrate! We were coming from the same perspective and didn’t have to dust off our apologetics skills.

It made me wonder why it was so hard to get to that point. Religion is really the essence of life. We should tenderly hold it out as the most generous of gifts!

This time I ended up being the one to give this new airport friend something. She wanted to find a way to talk to others about the sanctity of life, the holiness of marriage and the freedom of religion. She wanted to share those concepts with her daughter.

I just happened to be a reading a copy of the Manhattan Declaration (check it out at It’s a long document, but it’s also a well-reasoned defense of traditional values. So, I gave her my printout which she said was “perfect.” And we promised to pray for each other’s families.

It’s that air over Iowa that gets me to thinking.

(Judith Costello is a freelance writer who grew up in Davenport and now lives in rural New Mexico. Her Web site is She and her daughter Brigit are now marketing their artwork and booklets at

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