You meet the most interesting people on a plane, in a restaurant, or a doctor’s office. Just random people who by no coincidence, end up adding so much to your day. Those chance meetings that by the end of a conversation you realize it wasn’t chance at all you ran into each other at the same place, at the same time, with the same purpose. You see God in the middle of it all.
Our flight has been delayed now for over three hours. We have been sitting on the Tarmac for one hour. As my husband just stated, “this is hell”. Which I know it isn’t. Yet, it doesn’t make this major inconvenience any less bearable as my seat is becoming painfully more uncomfortable by the minute. As the Stewards were offering pretzels and water to passengers, which doesn’t offer the sustenance all of us were hoping for after a four-hour delay, I turned my attention to the young woman sitting next to me with her headphones on nervously bouncing her leg. I asked her what she was listening to which opened the door for conversation. She was sixteen flying home from a soccer tournament during her Spring break. Her family had recently relocated to Montana from Indonesia. Her father was Indonesian, and her mother was American. We chatted about how different things were for her, missing her friends, new school, love of sports, and music.
The plane finally took off and she realized that she would miss her connecting flight. I reassured her that the airlines would either hold the flight for her at the terminal or get her on another flight. As we approached the terminal for landing her leg started bouncing again. I leaned over and reassured her that she would be okay. We landed and as we walked into the terminal she turned to say, “It was nice to meet you”, and we wished each other well.
It was nothing exciting, no big revelations, but it was just a moment of conversation that made the difference for me traveling as I hope it did for her. Being a part of God’s divine encounters doesn’t always look like a supernatural miraculous moment. Sometimes those brief casual conversations are needed to remind us that we are seen, noticed, valued, and heard. It is much like offering someone thirsty a drink. One sip is all that is needed to feel refreshed.
Matthew 25:35-36 NIV, “35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Like the woman I met when my husband and I stopped at a local diner for breakfast. While my husband eats, I often talk which means he will finish his meal before I even start mine sometimes. Finishing first, he decided to go fill up the truck while I started on my breakfast. Our server seated a young woman in the booth next to us facing me. We made eye contact and smiled. I felt so compelled to visit with her, so I asked if she was eating with someone, which she wasn’t, and invited her to join me as I moved my husband’s plates out of the way.
She had a beautiful presence about her that was welcoming and made conversation easy. We started by answering the general get-to-know-you questions, “Where do you live?”, “Are you traveling?”, “What do you do professionally?”. We discovered that despite our age difference, her a young twenty-something and me a new senior (cringe), we had quite a bit in common between us. Her father was born in India and came to the United States for his education and met her mother, an American, as my father did. She was going to school to get her Ph.D. in Psychology as I just completed my BA in Psychology. She was missing home, family, friends, and community, as I was too. We laughed, talked about our family cultures, school, and food, and ended with following each other on social media. Before walking away, I felt compelled to convey, “If you ever need anything, even in an emergency, do not hesitate to reach out to me. I want you to know that you have a friend.” She was deeply touched and grateful for the kindness.
I think we all know how it feels to be away from the familiarity and comforts of home. How often do we consider what it is like for those who are feeling disconnected because of their job, going away to school, or displaced because of poverty, war, or seeking exile? Loneliness is something we can minister to with the smallest gestures of hospitality, love, and kindness.
1 Peter 4:8-10 NIV, “8 Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
My granddaughter and I were trying on eyeglass frames after her Optometrist appointment. The gentleman helping us seemed to be a bit odd and quirky with an eagerness that seemed forced. He was trying to impress us with his knowledge of the art of picking the right frames. Listening to him, my heart was quick to discern that this man felt like he was overlooked most of his life and desired to be acknowledged as significant and accepted. He carefully fitted my granddaughter’s glasses and took the time to make sure she was pleased with them while sharing the science behind creating her lenses. She was not interested. She just wanted her new glasses that she was “obsessed” with and frozen yogurt.
Asking the sales clerk questions about caring for her glasses, how to clean them, how to take them on and off, and encouraging him to explain the importance of responsible eyeglass ownership, was an invitation he had been waiting for. This sweet man lit up with excitement to share his knowledge, despite my granddaughter moving on from the conversation. He had my attention. He had someone’s attention. He was seen, heard, and affirmed. Thanking him for doing such a great job helping us, shaking his hand, and pointing him out to his supervisor as we walked out the door, “We will be back because of him”, I pray blessed him, and changed him. Maybe, he stood a little taller in the days that followed.
Being the hands and feet of Jesus sounds like a hugely daunting task that we could never accomplish. Your right. In the literal sense, we can not be. As we look at the life Jesus lived and how he interacted with his community, the spiritually wounded, sick, and weighed down with sin, we see Him greet each person with gentleness, humility, and kindness. He did not withhold His love from those who did not know Him or the Father. Rather, He was generous with His love, as the Father was generous with His Son for us. The person the world rejects because they look different, act different, believe differently, Jesus accepts with open arms because “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:3 NIV) Jesus has empathy.
If we examine our hearts, we might find that same empathy that Jesus has for others. We may recall the moments in life when we were anxious about missing our flight, being alone in a new city, or feeling rejected and underappreciated. And, on a plane, in a restaurant, or at the doctor’s office, you might meet someone who needs you to be the hands and feet of Jesus for them. Your experiences with Jesus as He has ministered to you in those hurting places are gifts for you to share with others He brings along your life’s path.