It’s amazing how many times I’ve encountered Jesus at the airport.
There was the time I was two months pregnant, green around the gills, saddled with a clunky car seat and a distracted 4-year-old, running madly toward my connecting flight, sweating — probably swearing — when a sweet man found my eye, slowed my manic pace and asked if he could help. I gratefully handed him my car seat and fought the urge to toss my cookies in relief.
Then there was the time that I eyed a young woman in line next to me who was in obvious distress. When I asked the ticket agent if I could help, she explained her customer needed $20 to check her bag (oh Southwest, I love you for letting bags fly “free”). I paid her fee, smiled, and asked her to do it for someone else next time.
Yes — there have been many times when Jesus presented Himself to me through strangers — and times when He’s dwelled in me to minister as I walk along the road (or scurry through the airport).
But last weekend, “He” stood right in front of me there, and I turned a blind eye. He gave me a clear sign, a prime opportunity — and I missed it.
You see, I had just literally been dropped off at the airport after a very difficult week. I’d been at home on the East Coast, caring for my mother, who as you might remember, is coping with cancer.
I’d given her every ounce of myself that week — ministering to her needs, coordinating the details of hospice care and insurance issues, communicating with doctors, nurses and family members, cleaning the house, cooking.
I was worn out in body and spirit; I was heavy in heart — and my head was swimming.
So when a woman at the curbside counter asked me if I could help her by buying her ticket to get home (she mentioned something about having cash, but not a necessary credit card) I didn’t give her much time.
I gently told her I was sorry, that I just couldn’t help that day. But I wish I had taken just a moment to slow the spinning wheels long enough to really consider what I could have done for her.
I don’t think God is ever finished with me, even when I’ve been doing some tricked-out giving. Perhaps He put me in her path because He thought she stood a chance with me — one of His Flock, one who is called to be His hands to the stranger (Matthew 25: 34-36).
And I failed that day.
Later, when I saw her at baggage claim I sheepishly approached her to express my regret for not helping when perhaps I could have. It was a humbling moment, and I’m glad the Holy Spirit nudged me to take it.
Her gracious smile said it all. Taking her turn to be the eyes of Christ staring into mine, she told me it was OK, and that she appreciated me seeking her out.
She uplifted my tired soul in that moment, and I was admonished that if His name is to be on my lips and in my heart, my actions have to match — even when I’m distracted, busy and overwhelmed.
Don’t miss the opportunity to serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). Especially at the airport, where in my experience, God presents many opportunities for your compassion to take flight.
• Freelance writer and editor Diane Meehl lives in Ahwatukee Foothills with her husband and their lively brood. They worship at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Reach her to talk about the big questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.