Hope in the Stranger
There is a unity you feel, a peace knowing that most people in the world are good.
A few years ago, I was in Dallas TX, attending a convention for work. After it was over, I decided to extend my stay in Texas a few days and catch a flight to San Antonio to visit family. I walked down to my crowded gate and boarded the airplane.
Shortly after I sat down in my seat, the flight attendant made an announcement about the plane being oversold and they were looking for volunteers to take the next flight out an hour later. The compensation would be a $200 travel voucher. I was enticed by the deal, so I picked up my belongings and journeyed to the front of the plane. There were three of us who came forward and that was all they needed to get this flight underway. So we walked off the plane and back into the gate area.
After the door to the jet way closed, the gate attendant came over and printed us our vouchers along with our new boarding passes for the next flight. The three of us giggled a bit as we walked to our new gate with our earnings in hand. We all had a story of how this $200 might be used and for what trip we might take.
As the departure for our next flight drew close, we heard an announcement about this flight also being oversold and they were looking for volunteers to take the next flight out. The three of us all looked at each other and said, “what the heck, lets do it again!” The next flight was only 45 minutes later, and again the compensation was $200. So we waited in the gate area and watched… Everyone boarded the plane, the door to the jet way was closed and the tug pushed out the plane so it could journey on its way.
Once the departure tasks were complete, the gate attendant printed our new boarding passes and our second $200 voucher. We barely had any time to get to our new gate in order to catch this next flight, but once we did, it was once again an ominous scene.
We overheard people up at the counter with standby tickets being told this flight was oversold and it was unlikely they would get a seat. So the three of us huddled and thought, could this really be possible? Might we do it again? So, being all smart and savvy about the “bump” process, we decided to be proactive and ask if they were in need of volunteers to take the next flight out. Indeed, they were, and they put us on a list.
However, the next flight was not for another 4 hours, so this wait would be lengthy. I began to hesitate a bit, because I was looking forward to actually spending time in San Antonio versus the Dallas airport. One of the guys in our group mentioned he had access to American Airlines Admirals Club, and we would be quite comfortable as they have many TV’s, free food and free beverages. So, we decided to take the deal, especially because now they were offering $400 and meal coupons, due to the longer wait.
Once we were situated in the Admirals Club, our conversation changed. Outside of this common bond we had over the last two hours, we really knew nothing about one another, and we had over 3 hours together. So, we began to talk. I went first. I shared that I worked for the church in youth ministry, and I talked about my education, my family, and why I enjoy what I do.
I was with two other gentlemen, and they too began to share their life stores. One was the Chief of Police for Arlington, TX, and the other lived in Missouri and worked for Boeing. Here was a chief of police, an airplane mechanic and a youth director, sitting in the Admirals club together. Never in my life could I imagine sitting at a table having a conversation with these individuals.
Our lives were so different, and we really had nothing in common, except the $800 in travel vouchers in our pockets. I learned so much about them, their lives, their families, their joys and their frustrations. Maybe we felt safer sharing these things with one another, knowing that we would probably never see each other again. The time came for us to catch the next flight. It was nearing 10:00PM, and we were all quite tired. We went to the gate, boarded our flight and headed to San Antonio.
The last time we saw each other was in the baggage claim at the San Antonio airport. We wished each other well and went on our way. It was a rather uneventful farewell, especially after the time we had just spent together.
Even though I never plan to see those individuals again, I think about them regularly, especially when I fly on a Boeing Jet, or whenever I hear about the city of Arlington. Maybe in a small way, we grew from one another.
There was a worldly connectedness we felt, as we each of us was from a different region of the country with a completely different background. I had to step out of my comfort zone in order to become comfortable around them. These were not the people I would generally choose to be around and share information about my life with … but I did.
I believe God uses these experiences as a challenge for us to see our world differently, outside of the types of people we hang around with, the neighborhoods we live in, the churches we attend and the stores we shop. That day, we were all reminded that in our range of differences, we could still learn, grow and appreciate one another. If nothing else, that experience gave us all hope in the stranger.