People We Would Rather Ignore, and what we miss when we do

People We Would Rather Ignore, and what we miss when we do www.christasterken.com

 

On a cross-country flight, I glanced up to see a man walking down the airplane aisle.

The man who if we were honest, we’d admit that we all hope didn’t sit by us.

Disheveled, smiling around at no one in particular as he unintentionally knocked his bag around. When he stopped at my row, I felt guilty for these thoughts and looked up to smile at him.

I do not want to judge people, strangers I know nothing about, just put off a bit by their appearance. That is not who I want to be.

So, I smiled. That committed me for the flight.

He opened his bag and took out piles, I mean PILES of papers. Sections of newspapers he’d meant to read. Folded and added to the piles. Some were years old I noticed.

He plopped a large pile next to me which immediately slid around and to the floor.

Giggling, he picked them up, holding up the line behind him. He offered his aisle seat to the man behind him and slid next to me.

 

Opening our heart to the mess

Imagine this--to have for a seat mate, a companion with a slightly musty odor, very dirty nails that were long and unkempt,  hair that rivaled Einstein for complexity, and a need to talk frequently forces a person to do one of two things.

Look at…or look away.

The man was quite frankly a mess. And if I chose to look away, I would be a mess as well. Click To Tweet

Who am I to judge this person, based on these inconsequential peripheral distractions? Does not God love us equally?

Humbled, I helped him settle in, grasping loose papers as we took off. I knew much of his life story within the first 15 minutes.

A 97-year-old mother he’d been taking care of for 5 weeks.  A complete sonnet, eloquently recited to me… written by his late father (also 97, who taught Biblical Comparative Religion), how his brother thinks he should not save so many articles, the names of his dogs and how they received said names, why he loves to fly West to East in the evening sky…

We politely chatted ( I listened) and then I settled in to read my book. He laughed at his papers, laughed some more and then nudged me.

Offering me his papers to read, that I “just had to read”, he insisted because they were so funny. About nuns.

It was funny.

 

Daniel taught me a lesson

He took my chuckles to mean that I’d like more informative articles, which he just happened to have in his pile about nuns.

Setting my book aside, I read with interest his carefully chosen pieces. We discussed several things that we read, and the flight passed by more quickly.

He had notes too.

Remember the computer paper that used to come connected with the holes along the side? Haven’t seen that in years, but he made fine use of the remnants. The man was highly intelligent, no matter my questions, he had plenty of insight.

 

Why do I share this with you?

Because we all see people every day we make choices about. Others make choices about us. But, regard those choices with care. someone might need us to see them, really see them as people.

And conversely, we might be that person to someone else.

When we landed he hurriedly scribbled his name, address, email, cell number and the name of a book to give me. A book he’d be happy to send me to regarding a previous conversation.

I saw Daniel that night when clearly his company wasn’t in high demand.  And I will not forget him.

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19 thoughts on “People We Would Rather Ignore, and what we miss when we do

  1. I like this so much, because it happens to me all the time and I have to look inside my heart and ask, “Are you looking down on this person? And why is that, is it because you’re so great?” Or maybe the Holy Spirit is asking me those questions. I’m glad you won’t forget that man.

  2. Christa,

    Loved this story. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

    I think it’s great that you saw him. That’s how the Samaritan woman felt after an interaction with Jesus.

  3. Love this. It’s so true that try as we might, we still find ourselves judging others, especially those sitting next to us on an airplane! I love that you gave him a chance and discovered the good in him. Yes, it’s what God wants us to do, so there is doing it for obedience, but also I think when we open up our hearts and minds to others, we receive joy. There is good in everyone and when we look for it, when we are open to it, life is much richer.

  4. The key is choice. Do I respond with eye contact and a smile OR do I ignore and keep just my own company. What a wealth of riches came with your response on this particular day. What a very, very different flight it would have been had you chosen the latter.
    Very timely post. Last night my friend and I went to see Captain Philiips, the movie. Almost sold out, we would have been sitting apart. So chose Last Vegas instead. We sat down in the almost empty theatre, three seats down from a fellow surrounded by jumbo bag of popcorn and gigantic pop drink. He engaged immediately “BEST seats in the house, gonna see Mike Douglas up REAL close.” My pal and I locked eyes sharing a silent “One word and we’ll be chatting all night.” We ignored him. However the running monologue soon had us in stitches and we did turn and chat. He loved it. Increased the commentary and soon was reaching out to the couple in front.
    Honestly – I may forget the movie but I won’t forget him.

  5. Amazing story, Christa, and you handled things so well. It’s so easy to look the other way, yet you went out of your way to show kindness to a lonely man.

  6. I loved this the first time and I sit with a smile in my face, in my heart, and tears in my eyes! So proud of you. Embarrassed that I would’ve done everything I could have to ignore this man. What else have I missed in my life?!!!

    1. I still miss things all the time, it is too easy to let our brain convince us that we don’t have the time or capabilities to really get involved. Give it a try, as I believe it is a practice that can be cultivated. Romans 12 is an EXCELLENT guidebook. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Thanks for caring ♥

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