When the Airplane Becomes Your Neighborhood
I recently returned from a trip to Indiana where I attended the graduation festivities of a good friend and also visited family. At the end of the 5 days of many interactions with people, this introvert was a bit tired and needed some alone and “down” time in order to refresh and regroup for the days ahead.
The day I left Indiana I had to get up quite early, then drive 45 minutes to the airport. When it came time to board the aircraft, I was ready for a little nap and my book. After I found my seat I proceeded to get ready for my refresh time; headphones on, neck pillow in place, and my iPad out to read my book. The aircraft was getting full when I saw them coming down the aisle; a group of five; 3 adults and 2 children. I could tell they were frazzled and out of sorts just by body language and interactions with each other. When they stopped at my row I thought to myself, “oh no, this could be a long trip.” They could not figure out which seat belonged to who, where to put their carry-on luggage pieces, and what needed to happen next. And, they had already held up the rest of the passengers who were trying to get to their seats as the flight attendant was telling people to get into their seats so we could have an on-time departure. Then I heard one of the women say, this is a make a wish trip. My heart sank because I knew what that meant; one of the children in the group had a terminal disease.
One of the women and a child finally settled in my row. She fussed around a bit and got a little settled; the other two adults and child were in the row behind. After we finally took off, the woman next to me fell asleep. I was now back to minding my own business with my headphones on and reading my book. It was a great book and I wanted to get it finished before I got home later that day. The woman fell asleep shortly after we were air-born. Three times during the next hour, the woman flung her arm across my body as she was sleeping. I picked up her arm off my lap and put it back on her side of the arm rest. A few minutes later the same thing happened. I repeated my actions, this time slightly annoyed. A little while later, she did it again. As I put her arm back once again and she apologized profusely and tried sleeping another way. I went back to my book.
About an hour into our flight, the woman next to me finally woke up and proceeded to rummage through her carryon bag. This went on for nearly an hour. She tried several times to talk to me while rummaging, so I would pull of one side of my headphones so I could hear her. Apparently she did not notice that I was wearing headphones, the large noise reducing ones that were not conducive to conversation. I also heard her mention to the flight attendant once again about the make a wish trip and they were going to Hawaii, the request of her son.
I returned to my book and my eyes stopped at the title: Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity, by Jen Hatmaker. No kidding, the title started with the word interrupted. I chuckled a little inside at the irony as God got my attention and I listened and pondered what to do. I turned off my iPad, took off my head phones, and asked my seatmate if I could take a photo of her and her son. You would have thought I offered them the world at that point, but I probably did since she told me she did not know if she would have him for another year. She rummaged through her bag to try and find her cameras. She found one and between that one and her iPhone we managed some decent photos. It was then at that point she spent the next hour sharing her story. In a nutshell:
· Her son had a liver transplant.
· He then developed Hodgins Lymphoma and was in the hospital for 6 months undergoing treatment.
· She had to quit work and take care of her son full time.
· Dad left her when she was pregnant and rarely sees his son.
· Son is a bit developmentally delayed due to the diseases and cancer; his local school would not help so they had to find a special school for him.
· They met the other lady and son (he also has liver disease) in treatment and invited them on this trip so her son would have a companion.
· She has pancreatic issues and Type II diabetes. She showed me her Epi pen.
· Her mom in the seat behind me was just diagnosed with congestive heart failure and another medical issue. Mom lives in another state.
· They were late to the airport because their taxi did not come. They were packing at 2am and were to leave the house at 4am.
After she shared all of this with me, she said that she could not have gotten through all of this without faith in God. I asked her what kind of support group she had, and she told me she had nobody. At that point I became a little irritated as I wondered where the Christians were in her town. Why was nobody reaching out to meet the needs of this woman and her child? I was left with a heavy spirit as I pondered the responsibility each one of us has to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our neighborhoods, our towns, state, and world.
I asked her if she would mind if I prayed for her. She told me her name was Tara and her son Cole. She took my contact information (once she found a pen and paper in her bag) and said that she would email me. I don’t expect to hear from her, but I have no doubt that I was supposed to interact with Tara that morning and hear her story.
Once we reached our destination, I made my way to the next flight still thinking about the conversation with Tara. As the gate agent scanned my boarding pass, she told me to wait and handed me a new seat assignment. 1D. Upgrade to first class. I chuckled at God’s sense of humor as I settled into my new seat with my headphones, neck pillow, and book.
Tara and Cole. I wonder how their lives would be different if they had neighbors who reached out to them and showed them Christ’s love in action?
May 26, 2016