Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tending needs

Last weekend I took a trip back to Texas for a job training. As always, it took two flights to get me there, and two to get me back to NC. On my first flight of the weekend, I tried to read but became very distracted by the actions of the man sitting next to me:
I said hello to him as he sat down, noticed he had a foreign accent, and also that he was too tall to comfortably sit in the seat. Then I went back to reading. Halfway through the flight, I noticed him getting restless- shifting in his seat. He seemed to be a bit distressed and his gestures and constant checking of his printed out itinerary and checking his watch (always followed by a palms up "how did this happen" motion). A number of times I wanted to ask him if there was anything I could help him with...but I never did.
Finally the stranger turned to me, "Excuse me, is there any time difference between North Carolina and Memphis?" I had pretty much decided that this was probably the cause of his stress. I answered, "Yes, we're going to gain an hour- so it's only 5:45 there. What time does your next flight leave?" He showed me his boarding pass and pointed to the time of departure, saying "7:30." I assured him, "Oh, you've got plenty of time. These time changes can be confusing." Our conversation continued a while longer, and then I went back to reading my book. His shoulders relaxed and he seemed to enjoy the second half of the flight much more.
"and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:10

This stranger wasn't necessarily "hungry," but I did notice his distress. However, I hesitated to offer assistance, and justified it by telling myself it was none of my business. I wonder how often others do similar things. Is it because of our respect for personal space and privacy that we fail to be a people that help each other? This week, observe others, look for opportunities to help someone.


Amy Hadley said...

This is such a sweet story! And I agree. My social comfort almost always comes before just being human and interacting with people. That's why some of the friends I admire most are the ones who easily and casually connect with strangers.

Russ Bowlin said...

thanks for the comment. yeah i wish i were bolder and i respect and admire those who are so.