Wednesday, September 27 2023 - 3:16 PM

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Pacific Southwest

Photo by Dreamstime


Not long ago I found myself waiting, yet again, to board a flight. But this wait was a little bit different than others: I had been upgraded to first class. This makes waiting easier because you know when the wait is over better-than-usual things await. First class changes things. First class changes me.

I still chose to be the last one to board the airplane – I don’t like to sit any longer than I have to. And so, I found myself at the end of a very long, slow-moving line on the jet bridge, inching our way toward the plane. In front of me there was a young woman who seemed tired, even a little agitated. I heard quiet sighs and almost inaudible plaintiff whispers intended for no audience but life itself. A moment later, she turned back toward me and said, “Look, can you believe this, they put me in the very last row of the plane … again!”

Conversation with the Holy Spirit

I politely heard her complaint and then did what people who like to fix things do: I gave her some punchy advice: “Do you know that you can choose your seat when you book you flight nowadays?” I said. “Online, there’s a little seat map that pops up, and you can click any open seat, and then you won’t have to be stuck in a middle seat or the back row. Next time you should try this. You always get stuck.”

“Thanks for the tip” she said.

We continued to nudge our way toward the plane. And that’s when I heard him.

And I said, “No.”

He said, “Yes.”

And I said, “No.”

And he said, “Yes.”

Then I said, “No.”

And He said, “Yes.”

I said, “Okay! Fine!”

I don’t know how your conversations with the Holy Spirit go. But that’s, too often, how mine go. And, to my shame, I confess that I frequently win those arguments. It’s my body after all, not his, so I chose to overrule him. But not on this day. In this episode of contest-of-wills, I lost.

Trading Seats

We continued to progress down the jet bridge and toward the plane. We stepped onto the plane, and made that right turn off the cockpit, into the galley, and then first class.

“Look, an open seat.” I tapped the woman in front of me on the shoulder. “It’s your lucky day. Why don’t you just sit here?”

She looked at me as if to say, “Who made you lord and master of the airlines?”

“No, sit here,” I said. She paused, and then plopped down into the plush, empty seat, and I made my way all the way to the back of the airplane … the very last row. I sat down: the toilet behind me and children who needed to use the toilet all around me. And I sat between a rock and a hard place and tried to get some work done.

A couple hours into the flight I heard a male voice, “Excuse me, Sir.” I looked up. He was a flight attendant, and he was talking to me.

“Yes,” I said.

“Are you the passenger who traded seats with that woman in first class?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I hope she’s enjoying it.”

“Oh, you have no idea. She’s never sat in first class before and she’s milking it for all it’s worth. The other first-class passengers are coaching her on how to extract maximum benefit from the experience. This has become a big deal.”

He had a smile on his face. I laughed, and told him I was glad she was enjoying her trip. He offered me a complimentary drink, which I declined. And then I went back to work.

Another hour goes by and this time I heard a female voice. I look up. She’s talking to me. It’s the woman I traded seats with.

I have rarely seen a human face so filled with unbridled joy.

“Thank you so much,” she said. “This has been wonderful!”

“I’m glad,” I said.

Her Note

She handed me a piece of paper, and then walked back up the aisle to first class. And I never saw her again. (Principally, because I deplaned probably 45 minutes after she did!)

I turned back to my work. The plane landed. I finally got off the plane, and then, in the airport, I remembered that piece of paper she had handed me.

And this is what I read:

Dear Stranger on the Plane,

Wow – how wild. I am in awe. You have just traded seats with me. My seat was in the last row on the plane; your seat – the 1st class. Who are you anyway? Your kindness is unreal. What a treat. I am so grateful, but somehow at a loss for words. What you don’t know about me is that I am in a hard point in my life right now. I spent the hour before boarding our Denver flight in tears while waiting. Your gracious gift to an unknown traveler made my day. It also made my bucket list and created an experience I will remember forever. Thank you. Cadie.

And then, tucked into her note, her boarding pass, now edited: seat 38E is crossed out, and, in bold handwriting, the words, “FIRST CLASS!”

Don’t we all want to feel first class? And don’t we all want to be treated with kindness, with respect, with love? Don’t we all wish to go through life sitting in a place where we are cared for? Isn’t it true that “first class changes things.”

Alert in Our Waiting

I’m glad I lost that fight with the Spirit of Jesus that day. And I wish I had the courage to lose more. For losing to God means a lifetime of winning – and helping others win, too. Our lives are filled with people who are hurting, women who are just trying to survive, men who are just trying to figure out how to wake up another day, and children who are sorting out whether or not they wish to live at all in this world. We live amid those who are living and dying, laughing and crying, and waiting to find the sort of joy promised in the good news of the Gospel.

I pray that in the long lines of life we will grow in our capacity to hear God and his nudge toward love. I pray that we will grow in our capacity to anticipate God’s prompts. And I pray that we will mature in our ability to receive and give. I pray that we will be men and women alert in our waiting.

Alex Bryan writes from the Pacific Northwest.

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy A Spoonful of Kindness 

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About Alex Bryan

Alex Bryan

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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