The first-leg of the flight coming home from CA. was already delayed by almost two hours. By the time I came on board, all of the aisle seats and all but three of the window seats were taken. I settled into a window seat, second row from the back. The man on the aisle was in his late 30’s or early 40’s and busy talking on his cell phone. I learned later his name was Wes. We were presently joined by Tanner, a young man in his early 20’s, who I supposed was coming home from college for Thanksgiving.
The flight was pretty ordinary. I pulled out my book to read while Wes and Tanner had a pleasant conversation. Both ordered adult beverages from the flight attendant and I enjoyed my true addiction of Diet Coke. It really would have been a forgettable flight except for the encounter that took place next.
That’s when we felt the turbulence. Wes took the opportunity to lean across Tanner and said, “If you are scared, I will hold your hand.”
I responded, “Thank you but I am not afraid.”
Wes persisted, “No really, if you are afraid, I will hold your hand.” He continued to hold his hand out across Tanner.
Once more I replied that it was not necessary as I was not afraid.
When he asked the third time, I realized I was not going to be able to put him off without holding his hand. So, I put down my book and said, “OK, I will hold your hand and we can say a prayer together.”
Faster than Dracula withdrawing from the morning rays of the sun, Wes pulled back his hand.
After a second to pull his thoughts together he said, “I guess you say that, ‘Hail Mary’ stuff.”
“Yes,” I replied, “I say the ‘Hail Mary’ and the ‘Our Father’ and a few ‘Glory Be’s for good measure.”
That stopped him for a minute. Heaves to Murgatroyd! He had just asked a Catholic to hold his hand. Now he was starting to think clearer realizing he had probably misjudged how old I was. Alcohol will do that. And apparently he had had a lot of it. “Do you have any kids?” he asked trying to determine just how old I was.
“I have four and the youngest is 17,” I answered. I figured it was kindness not to mention that my oldest was 33 and I was about a month shy of being a grandmother. “Good, now I can get back to my book,” I thought, which just happened to be about angels. I had picked it up at the airport gift shop and it just goes to prove that God has a wonderful sense of humor.
Wes was very perturbed now. He announced, “Well, I don’t believe in God, I believe in science.”
Not wishing to pick a fight, I kept looking at my book and said, “That’s nice, God invented science.”
I heard him mockingly repeat my words, ‘God invented science.”
There was quiet for about 5 minutes.
Now his anger was palpable. He turned to Tanner and said, “You seem like a nice young man, so I am going to give you the benefit of my education in how to protect yourself. You see, I like to engage with escorts while I am out of town.” He then proceeded to tell Tanner about his various exploits with hookers and their John’s and how to take care of yourself in the event one of them sprays you with tear gas. His language was foul and his tales, rather than eliciting outrage from me only resulted in my feeling pity for him.
God will use us, just as we are today if we are willing. We are where He wants us to be. This one moment in time for all of eternity was designed for our presence and those with us. The people in our lives are there for a reason, both to be taught, loved and helped by us and us by them. We do not always understand why that one difficult person is with us or why that one person who makes us uncomfortable is always around. Or maybe that one brief encounter on a plane was needed for the eternal life of that person next to me. I did nothing more than agree in my heart to pray for Wes.
As we landed I turned to him to ask him in first name and told him, I would be praying for his safety. Tanner was shocked when I told him, I would pray for him too. Walking into the terminal, I was well behind the other two. Tanner turned around and came back. He said in a low voice, “I am so sorry you had to hear all of that conversation.”
I smiled. “It’s OK, Tanner, it only made me want to pray all the more.” And it’s true.
You see, I really was Wes’s worst nightmare. I will pray for his conversion to Christianity all the days of my life, because I am the Catholic in their midst.