You can hardly hide a thing when you have a ticket to fly. The TSA is all about transparency.
Belts to hold up your britches, jackets to disguise spare tires and scarves to hide neck rings that rival an old tree are all shoved through security. By the time you reach the body scanner almost in your skivvies, the agents are ready to take flight from the sight.
No wonder passengers, once on board the airplane, bury their heads in the emergency instructions like it’s a New York Times bestseller. It’s all about regaining a remnant of privacy.
I feel that same way. Once we’re all scrunched into each other’s intimate space with seatbelts buckled, I tend to avoid much conversation with my fellow seatmate unless they feel the need to reveal themselves. I figure sometimes God may have me in that particular seat to listen.
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But after several hours of flying time on our recent flight from Charlotte, S.C. to San Francisco, Calif., I began to grow increasingly concerned for the passenger sitting next to me in our three-seat row.
At first, I didn’t question why the young man waved away the refreshments — even water — over the long miles, instead choosing to just stare out the window. While I snacked and read page after page, he sat quietly without saying a word.
I felt distracted. Something in my heart sensed sadness — a feeling of angst in his private reflection.
As tray tables returned to their closed position and seat belts were tightened for our approach into the brightly lit city below, my fellow passenger turned to ask in broken English if this was San Francisco. I assured him it was and then asked if he lived there.
The answer was “No,” but then he felt a need to explain.
“My hermana,” the young man spoke haltingly as I understood the Spanish word for sister, “was ...”
I waited as his face twisted with emotion and his hand, as if clutching a knife, plunged into his chest.
My tears welling, his story unfolded with difficulty. A street robbery had stolen a 27-year-old woman’s life and left a brother, a husband and child hemorrhaging with grief.
Together, we left the plane and helped this brokenhearted young man on his way to where his brother-in-law waited. As we parted company, my new-found friend hugged me with gratefulness and the words “God bless.”
I wanted to tell this fellow passenger that He already had.
For a few moments in time on a crowded jetliner and busy airport, we had connected with transparency of our hearts — one that God had surely been comforting in its private and hurting places over the long miles.