My husband has a habit of giving me his upgrades when we fly together. We always do this dance where I tell him he should take the seat, knowing he won't, forcing me to drink red wine out of glass, as he begs in the back for, "Please sir, I want some more... water, gruel, crumbs" (think Oliver)
Last week we were queued up for boarding when a gentleman my age walked up behind us asking if we were boarding? No, we are just here for the snacks, fella. Come on...
As we handed our tickets to gate agent, fella is following close behind, asking what my book is about? When did we start dating, I'm thinking... I turn half way towards him, "I am Malala. You have not heard of her? The girl shot in the face by the Taliban"? I'm thinking, do you live under a rock? Later, I will eat these thoughts.
I look at my husband and whisper, "You know, he is going to be my seat mate, right?!" I get a grin in return. Sure enough my new fella sits down next to me as I hand my hubs Malala and keep the book underneath.
I quickly find my earbuds and snap, Apple you are ridiculous. No adaptor for my phone and why is this even a thing? Get it together. I sit there with book and earbuds in hand. Neither will be used this trip.
Fella asks me what my other book is about? Making Room. Something I clearly do not want to do. It's about recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition. I mumble a couple words about the book.
He asks if I am a minister? Hmm. No, and then I stammer. Not because I think I am a minister, but because my heart is pastoral. Not actually in this moment, but when it's convenient, evidently.
He lets me know he has faith similar.... maybe his recitation of 80% of the Beatitudes gives it away. He wasn't showing off, but I was impressed.
He would circle back to my stammer later, but in this moment he was headed to politics and Trump. He led with love and Trump in the same sentence. I was looking around for a life preserver, a couple women looked at me with sympathetic smiles. Babies started crying. Where was the wine?
I realized I had no escape and might as well lean in. Fella shared his views, first on love and Trump. I asked if that love was shared to others, Hillary included, since this was a faith statement on his part. He said yes. He told me why he liked Trump. I told him why I did not. We volleyed back and forth for ten minutes. He said, "You are a woman of strong convictions." I said, "Yes, I am. I see you also have strong convictions." We went round and round... Where is that wine I wondered?
We were deliberate, intentional, and neither threw around lazy words that stuffed people in boxes. We were respectful.
People were listening and watching. His voice was big. I was still looking for red.
We talked pros and cons of both Bush presidencies, Clinton, Obama, evangelicals selling out and finally the Media and what it does to people.
Fella might love Trump, but he called out Fox, so I still had hope.
About fifteen minutes in he turned to me and asked, "So do you think I am a stupid idiot who is crazy for blah, blah, blah?" I looked him in the eyes and said, "Absolutely not. You have explained your thinking and choices very respectfully. We agree on some things and disagree on other things. It is your right to choose." And then I asked, "What do you do for a living?"
He circled back to my stammer.... and told me he felt we had similar heart calls in that neither of us collects a paycheck for the call on our lives. He had lived in twenty countries and been priest for as many years. He left the priesthood, got married and now worked for a large company and made a gazillion dollars. Yet... at heart he is still a priest. In his love for God and people. He lives humbly among mostly immigrants, many undocumented. He serves and celebrates life with them.
I looked at him and said, "This conversation was never about Trump or politics was it?" He shook his head and then I added, "You pushed this conversation? Why, and do you always push conversations?" He said, "No, I almost never do." Why this one I asked him. He said he saw something in my husband and I that he feels with his wife. He felt comfortable talking to me. Who does this?
I've had others share extremely personal things with me in airports. I've had memorable conversations on flights. Altitude seems to make people spill their hearts and stories, and I'm usually unguarded, which allows others to feel safe with me.
Yet, this flight I was guarded, which is odd for me.
We conversed the entire flight, relationships, marriage, community, and the current Pope. It was one of the most interesting, odd conversations with a complete stranger I have ever had. It was unwanted on my part and yet, I walked away feeling blessed, challenged and grateful.
At the end of the day, most of us are more alike than not. Even when we disagree, we can do it in a way that respects the other and we often find common ground. Fella told me I had given him a lot to think about. I responded similarly.
I thought about my initial behavior. I was trying to read a book on hospitality and I really wanted this fella to leave me alone so I could read it in peace. Hospitality... not lost on me.
And then I thought about all the places fella has lived and people he has served and loved... he had to know Malala. What a kidder that fella...
and his name was bob.
Thanks Bob... for the good words and reminder.
"Be hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined." Titus 1:8
"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
"Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Hebrews 13:1-2