(I have been working on my post from the Storyline Conference, but wanted to share this interaction today.)
I can't stop thinking about Kathy... Or Cathy... I don't actually know!
I was flying home from a Beeeeautiful wedding in Carillon Beach Sunday morning, and as I boarded the flight, might I add VERY early flight, I was looking forward to sleeping for the 45 minute quick trip to Atlanta to catch my connecting flight. I purposely don't buy coffee on that first leg because I was thinking, "YESSSSS, THIS is when I sleep again!"
I got a little panicky because the gate agent made an announcement about a full flight which is EVERY standby passengers worst nightmare! To which at that point, I had to talk myself out of really entertaining the idea of driving to Atlanta... I mean REALLY how much would that cost? And the rental car places aren't open until 7am, and at that point I should just wait for the 7:25am flight (and on and on)! I took VERY deep breaths and lovingly reminded myself that it was going to be okay, and driving to Atlanta seemed a little premature at 5:30AM!
BUT I DID get a seat! I always do a little dance walking down the jetway, and onto the plane... Smiling because IT HAPPENED!!! (IF you fly standby often you know what I mean!)
I settled into my seat next to a very nervous flyer on the right!!! I actually texted her husband, per her request, to tell him she was on the plane (her phone was not working!) It is the first time I have ever texted, "Hey Bae," and double checked that it was what we were actually saying to her hubby!
I laughed and told her I have never actually texted anyone that before! She seemed surprised, but explained what Bae meant. I didn't need a lesson, but it was funny to hear someone literally say, "He is my Before Anyone Else!"
It was after that interaction I noticed the woman across the aisle from me was crying. I was not sure if it was the crying that is from nerves or something else so I decided to let it go for a few minutes. She continued to weep.
As I listened to her continue to cry, I leaned over and said to her, "What is your name?"
"Kathy" or "Cathy"... (We will go with Kathy), she replied.
"Are you a nervous flyer too Kathy?" I asked.
With tears streaming down her face she said softly, "I got a call at midnight last night that my son died. I am on my way to South Bend. My other son is awaiting a heart transplant, I always worry about him, but never this son... Never this son."
I reached across the aisle, and placed my hand on her shoulder. I told her I would pray. I left my hand on her shoulder for awhile. And then I just listened. She had photos with her, and talked about his daughter. I watched passengers and flight attendants rally around her giving hugs, water, and kleenex. And Kathy cried. She sat and cried. I cried. It was one of the hardest 45 minutes I have experienced with a stranger. Where does one see hope in such grief, and shock too?
I realized in these situations we can’t do much. Offer a shoulder, extend our condolences, prayers, and listen, but we can’t change it. We can’t make it different. Kathy knew that. What she was looking for were people. People to tell her story to, to cry with, and to share who her son was and who she had dreamed he would be.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about Kathy this week, and continue to pray for her as she endures this trial. My short 45 minutes on that plane from Panama to Atlanta reaffirmed a truth for me. We have to keep showing up for each other. I mean truthfully, showing up with every ounce of broken, mess, chaos, agenda driven lives!!! Show up for our best friends, and for our strangers!
It is one of my favorite things about Jesus... He was present, He showed up, and He sat in the pain, the mess, the confusion, and let people TELL their stories!!! I love His interaction with the woman at the well because he simply showed up. He was present, available, and open! Where is God challenging me to live this way... Out in the real world?
For every person we encounter we get to be Jesus in those moments. The Holy Spirit lives in us, it is Christ through us that gives hope, peace, comfort, and love. I think it's not so much in the words we speak, but HOW we live! Showing up knowing wherever we go each person we encounter is a loved creation from our God!
Who in your life could use you to show up today? Who is the stranger in the grocery aisle, nail salon, coffee line, the employee at Costco who simply needs you to be present? It is a GREAT honor to be used by the Lord in these tender moments. To be used in a place where life feels too messy, and ALL somebody wants is to be heard!
Don’t stop showing up… Even if there are no words, sometimes all it takes is a reach across the aisle!!!