I just got back — literally — from another adventure in traveling on airplanes. If you haven’t done it lately, you are in for a real treat. Different airports apparently have different rules for passing through security. Some make you take off your belt and shoes, empty your pockets of everything including tiny slips of paper that you are not even aware are in them, step on the proper imprints on the floor, then get patted down and swabbed anyway because something looked strange. Other airports require no emptying of pockets except for one’s cell phone and you walk right through. All of this, of course, is supposed to give you a sense of security although I read somewhere recently that most of these checkpoints often fail tests when supervisors manage to get through all kinds of “dangerous” substances — yes, even more dangerous than nail clippers!
Of course, none of the above can prevent one’s crew from not showing up on time, which is what happened to me yesterday. What that means is that you don’t take off on time and hence you miss your next flight and so you are stuck in a strange city until the airlines can get you home. All because you missed your connecting flight boarding by less than five minutes. The plane was still at the gate, but we couldn’t get on because of rules.
Now the point of this little column is not the sour grapes of the bother of security, which is hardly secure, nor the fact that we missed a flight because of incompetence on the part of the flight crew, which never did make the flight. Nope — the point is the courteousness of all the people who helped us. When we got to our departing gate, the staff were there and cheerfully greeted us by name and explained that they already had us booked on the next flight out (the next morning). And we had reservations at a hotel and meal vouchers since it was the airline’s fault for our inconvenience. And while we were not overly happy, they made us feel better about the situation. And then there were others who were in our same situation. We rode the shuttle to the hotel with a lovely couple from Iowa, ended up having dinner with them, and returned the next morning with them to go our separate ways.
We made some new friends we wouldn’t have were it not for the delay. We heard about their children who had attended a private Christian school in their hometown. We shared stories we had in common. In short, we were strangers and we befriended each other. Think what that would look like in your life — if instead of avoiding strangers and bemoaning situations out of our control, we would embrace the moment and make the best of it. It seems to me that that is precisely what Jesus teaches us and commands us to do when he tells us to love one another, even as he has first loved us.
So travel in 2016 isn’t always easy. But it can provide us with a good story to tell and a way of life to live. Welcome the stranger in your midst. Befriend them. Join them in their disappointments. And walk away richer for the experience.
The writer is the pastor of St. Jacob Lutheran in Anna.