Last week I was blessed to go to a conference out of town. The conference was incredible; however, the two flights on the way to Boston were “eventful”.
Flight One: The couple sitting next to me vomited into a cup the whole flight. Gross. They had to get replacement cups a couple of times. Yep. Yuck. Thoughts of movies like Contagion came to mind. The row of people in front of me was obviously sick with colds. Snot, sneezing, watery eyes.
Are you still with me? I wouldn’t blame you for running. At the time I wanted to run too, but there was nowhere to go! Every seat was full.
Flight Two: The pilot announced that we had a mechanical. We sat at the gate on another full flight for 40 minutes until the issue was resolved and the flying part of the flight began. On this flight I sat next to a man who looked like he may have had a rough life so far, but he is not puking or sneezing so I’m good to go, I thought. His rosy face looked like someone who might have issues with alcohol and I may have smelled similar indicators. I cautioned myself not to judge. He seemed quiet and I imagined we would get along swell in the serenity of our silence.
Until he was no longer quiet.
I was playing a game of chess on my Nook® when he observed my (lack of) chess skills. Side note: I have not won a chess game against our 10 year old for over 10 months. My seat buddy began to provide several chess tips that I plan to try at home.
And then he began to share stories from his life–a lot of stories.
I should point out that I really do enjoy hearing stories from people. I believe that every story counts and is interesting. I like to listen. I liked listening to him.
But there are moments when you meet a talkative stranger when you pause to wonder if once the faucet is running…if it will ever stop running. You feel me?
Logically I knew the flight would end one way or another, but I was in stranger land and there were many acres to hear about. The more comfortable he became, the closer he was to me and occasionally he would rub my arm. Meanwhile, spit flew from his mouth several times to land mostly on my arm.
I felt that uneasy trapped feeling. That’s when the thought entered my mind you better ask God what to do with this situation.
So I did: God, what do you want me to do? What does this man need from me?
My immediate reply thoughts which may have been answers straight from above were: He is lonely. Encourage him. And my next thought was And somehow tell him that God is there for him and he should–if he feels he needs to–catch up on his relationship with God.
Oh, man. My throat gets dry and my stomach nervous when I feel the need to mention God to a total stranger!
The life stories played on. He used to own a title agency and lost his business. When he was a kid his family moved around a lot. He currently does not have a home. He flies to work for a couple weeks for a car promotion company and then returns to crash on various friends’ couches. He lived in Florida for a while, but has decided he no longer is a fan of the state. He was picked up for a crime he didn’t commit and spent time in jail. Before going to jail he spent five awful days in a prison van picking up other prisoners. He never had kids, but wishes he had. I could go on….
I was at a loss for words until the pilot asked us to prepare for landing. I asked my stranger friend, “What is your name?”
He said, “David.”
“Ohhh,” I replied and shared my name too.
“Nice to meet you,” David said.
I shared, “You know…in the Bible, David reinvented himself several times. He wasn’t just about killing the giant and then life was peachy. David endured a lot. He made mistakes. He bounced back.”
David’s eyes seemed to brighten. “I forgot about that. You’re right.”
“I bet you’re in the middle of reinventing yourself too. Correct?”
“Yes. I am. But I’ve been away from God for a long time. I’ve been thinking about getting back in touch with God and maybe going to church.”
“Good for you,” I agreed. “God is just a prayer away. He’s here for you today. And you’re wise about church–that would be a good place for fellowship and to grow in wisdom.”
Before we left the plane, David determined that he would reconnect with God and with a church he had been thinking about going to visit.
David also stated that he had been wishing for encouragement that day.
You never know who you’ll meet any given day. And how many times do we not know what to say?
I’m going to ask God more often what to do.
I do not have all the answers, but I know who does.