And so it began.
An unlikely encounter, a weaving together of hearts…two people who needed to hear each other’s words that day.
As I waited to board my plane home after an intense writer’s conference, I was tired. There was an unusually long line of folks in wheelchairs pre-boarding and one by one they were pushed onto the plane. One little lady, so frail and tired, caught my eye as her daughter turned her over to the flight attendant to be whisked away.
Then it was my turn, and I thought about who I would pick to sit by so I could mentally check out and rest during the flight back to KC. I entered the plane, and saw the little lady sitting there towards the front of the plane with an open seat beside her. “I’m too tired to help her”, I thought, but the next thing I knew I stowed by bag and plopped down beside her.
She needed help with her seat belt, and with her bag, and with getting her sweater, now tucked away in the overhead storage bin. She was noticeably anxious as she talked about the possible turbulence on the plane. It hadn’t been that long ago since my sweet and frail little mom was the one I helped day after day. As I talked quietly to her, I tried to reassure her. “I had a stroke a few months ago”, she said in her sweet South Carolina drawl, “but I went to reahab and I am so thankful for the things I am able to do now. Some things I forget how to do, simple things like getting dressed.” I noticed she had put her sweater on backwards, and so I helped her get it on right.
As the plane lifted off, so did our friendship. I showed her pictures on my phone. We smiled as we shared stories of our grandkids and she told of her new great grandbaby that would soon be born. We talked about dogs and her sadness at having to give her beloved little dog to her daughter that lived in KC because she couldn’t take care of him anymore. We imagined together how happy her little pup would be to see her this visit. As she looked at the picture of my friend’s dog with his nose laying on a book, she said, “oh is that the Bible?”. “Yes, it is, I replied”. That led us to a discussion about how my parents had owned the local Christian bookstore growing up and how I loved the Word. She too loved the Bible and talked of how she loved going to the bookstore back home. I told her about the book I had written and told her I would send her one when it released. She said she would pray for me. “There’s a lot of things I can’t do, but I can pray. People say that there’s so much bad in this world, but it’s not all bad!” Her optimism and faith in the midst of aging and illness were sweet to my ears. I told her about my praying mamma and how much that meant to me. I told her how much purpose and value she had and how God could still use her in mighty ways. I saw a soft tears falling from her eyes as she turned her head and we looked at the billowy clouds below in silence.
As the plane began to descend, she said, “God brought us together today”, I looked into her soft sweet Carolina eyes, “I know He did”, and I remembered the praying earlier in the day for each person I would meet that day, that God would direct my paths.
As we were getting off the plane, anxious passengers crowded to get off, and I had to remind the stewardess to help my new friend. Once she was safely back in her wheelchair, I bent down to give her a side hug and say goodbye. Softly, she said, “I love you”. “I love you too.”
She thought I had given her so much, but in my heart, I knew she was the one who had done the giving.