The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


August 15, 2008

One minute more

It was a long flight from Minneapolis to Chicago...took a tour of the runways in before we took off as we were re-routed for the flight pattern. Clock time, 30 minutes—give or take a few. Worry time, lots more for the folks who were counting precisely, as they were connecting (or hoping to) with planes headed elsewhere. Folks were tired. Cranky. Anxious.

And our 757 was packed. And it was late afternoon on a Thursday, the work warriors headed back after meetings out-of-town. Count me among them. (Though I was energized by the first-ever gathering of ELCA teaching theologians and “big church” pastors held at Central Lutheran Church that effectively demolished stereotypes and suspicions as the 100+ who came together talked and worshiped and learned from one another.)

We’d talked, just that morning, about the surprising ways God has of breaking in to ordinary days, working in people to bring moments of grace to our days.

And then, as we landed, a flight attendant spoke over the intercom: “We have passengers on this plane with very tight connections, some to international flights,” she said. “We’d appreciate it if you would stay in your seats to let them off first.”

And she added, encouragingly, “Hopefully, someone will do this for you someday. Thank you.”

No buzz among the passengers, as we taxied in and then waited, again, for a gate.

When the plane did stop, the usual rush of cell phones flipping open and overhead bin doors popping up started up. And then: People stopped in place. Everybody seemed to remember the flight attendant’s plea and stood back, allowing the rather frantic stream to try for those connections. I was on the aisle. “Where to?” I asked as they passed. “Munich.” “San Francisco.” “London.” Even just “South Bend, but it’s the last flight out.”

Don’t know, of course, how many plopped into the seats that were taking them to their destinations. But whether they did or not, they all did know that their fellow passengers—strangers all—gave their own best, their time, at the end of a long day to give them their best chance. Did they see that as a moment of grace? I hope so. I did.

How about you? When did you last glimpse such an in-breaking of care in our hurried days? A few years ago it was popular to call such deeds “random acts of kindness.” But I think such particular and specific acts of kindness are just as significant. And surely markers of the Spirit among us.

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