CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sometimes, you meet special people, people who have an impact not just on your day, but on your outlook in life. People who provide you a priceless gift by letting you see the world through their eyes, and thus showing you that everything is a little better than you thought it was before you met them.

Sometimes, those people are only eight years old.

The first thing you will learn about Jared Gyure when you meet him is that he likes U.S. presidents.

He has no problem sharing that affinity, which he did the moment he plopped himself down in seat 17E on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte to Pittsburgh, sitting next to his mom, with his dad and his 3-year-old brother, Jackson, in front of him. Two older brothers sit way up in the front of the plane.

They are all heading to Uniontown, Penn., for the funeral of the boys' great-grandmother.

“Did you know that Ulysses Grant once got a ticket for riding his horse too fast? Did you know that Richard Nixon got taken out of office for lying? I think that makes him the worst president. Did you know four U.S. presidents were assassinated?” he says without seemingly breathing between each thought.

And you can see those thoughts race across his eight-year-old face as he recounts all of the facts he knows about presidents.

And there are a lot of them.

“I was really lucky to know my great-grandmother,” he says with a broad smile, acknowledging something he knew was great — a connection to his family’s history and past he was able to experience.

He wonders what I think of William Jennings Bryan running for president three times. He asks who my favorite president was. I tell him that changes every time I read a new book on their lives, and my current new favorite president is Grant, since I’ve recently read Ron Chernow’s biography of the general-turned-commander in chief.

With this audience, I have to brag. I tell Jared I just interviewed the current president, Donald Trump, and his eyes grow wide like saucers. When I mention I had also interviewed both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Jared gasps. In that moment, I understand that cynicism about our country’s foundations and institutions and government isn’t something built into our DNA, or something that followed inevitably from the competitive nature of politics. Our current cynicism is specifically taught by the culture of the moment.

In Row E of this jet plane is someone who purely loved the office of the presidency without, even at a young age, a naivete that they were all perfect. It is also very clear that however his parents felt about Trump or Bush, or Obama or Clinton (whom I had also interviewed), had not formed any barrier to his curiosity.

It’s refreshing.

“I think they all start out good, or wanting to do good. But sometimes things happen, and they make bad choices,” he says.

The precocious 8-year-old has no electronic gadget or iPhone. That is a privilege that he has to earn, said his mom, Adrienne, who is sitting beside him. He loves board games and history books, plays soccer but really wants to play football, and became enthralled with the presidency thanks to a second-grade teacher who decorated her classroom with presidential photos last year.

It was there, his mom said, he found his passion.

“If William McKinley hadn’t picked Teddy Roosevelt for vice president, you know, he may have never been president. Did you know that when TR was a kid he had, like, a zoo of animals in his house? I think John Quincy Adams was my favorite president, even though I heard he had a bad temper,” he says.

Politics shouldn’t always about picking a side; sometimes, politics should be about knowledge of our fellow men and women.

The Gyure family moved to Florida five years ago but still holds deep roots in Western Pennsylvania. Adrienne grew up in Uniontown, her husband, Jon, in Brownsville — two small towns in rural Fayette County. He attended Carnegie-Mellon, and she attended Penn State and California University of Pennsylvania.

“It was hard when we moved just to Pittsburgh,” she says with a laugh of the 70-minute commute from Fayette County to Pittsburgh. “Really hard when we moved to Florida,” she said of the uproot from friends and family to the Sunshine State.

Because of the central location of Jared’s seat and our lively dialogue, it’s clear when we began to exit that most of the plane heard our conversation about all of the presidents. Yes, he knew all of their names, although we both got stumped on the Harrisons.

“Wait, which one was the ninth president? Was it Benjamin Harrison or William Henry? No, it was William Henry, yeah, yeah, Benjamin got beat by the only president who won twice, but not two times in a row. That was Grover Cleveland, yeah, Grover Cleveland,” he says of Benjamin Harrison, who was both preceded and succeed by Cleveland.

For someone who rarely flies, I find myself for once enjoying the opportunity to meet someone so inspiring and inquisitive on a plane all packaged into one small compact boy.

Jared receives a lot of smiles as the passengers exit the plane. Our boisterous conversation has touched more than one person traveling from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, including an African-American young man dressed in a deep-blue dress sweatshirt and pants with the traditional gold Navy emblem across the front.

Jared Gyure (pictured left) wears a white sailor's hat given to him by his fellow airplane passenger (pictured right).
Jared Gyure (pictured left) wears a white sailor's hat given to him by his fellow airplane passenger (pictured right). (Photo provided by Salena Zito)

He pulls out his white navy sailor's cap and asks Jared’s mom, Adrienne, if he could give it to the precocious boy, who probably taught everyone on the plane a few things about U.S. presidents — most importantly, a deep respect for the office outside of politics.

Jared is stunned as the sailor hands him the hat. He pauses to take a photo with him, then walks away with a broad smile, without giving his name.

It’s a reminder that sometimes lightning strikes twice in one day, when you meet two special people who make an impact not just on your day, but on your outlook in life.

Jared likely made such an impact in so many ways Wednesday evening on a plane over the middle of the country to a lot more people than he’ll ever know.