April 23, 2008

Second Chances

2008 1512 page30 cap small wailing woman with wispy white hair charged toward me. She thrust a plane ticket into my face. I raised my hands helplessly, not understanding a word she was saying. The woman thankfully turned to a man standing nearby, who began speaking to her in her language.
It was an overcast afternoon at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and I had 90 minutes to rush from terminal 9 to terminal 1 to catch a flight to Moscow. I was worried about missing the flight when the woman barged into the AirTrain, the rail network that connects the airport’s nine terminals.
But the flight wasn’t the only thing bothering me. I was wondering how to put myself in Jesus’ sandals. You see, I had started reading the book Messiah,* the contemporary adaptation of The Desire of Ages, on the flight to New York, and I was thinking about the passage: “It would be good for us to spend an hour every day thinking about the life of Jesus. We should use our imagination to put ourselves in each story, especially the stories from the last week of His life” (p. 54).
After the woman turned to the man for advice, my thoughts returned to the book. As the AirTrain silently slid between terminals, I guiltily realized that Jesus would not have raised His hands. He would have missed His flight in order to help someone—no matter what language they spoke. Regret filled me, but the moment had passed.
2008 1512 page30The train finally coasted into the station near terminal 1, and I hurried onto the platform, looking for the way out. The woman also got off the train, and she stood on the platform with two oversized bags and a frantic expression on her face.
Suddenly, my flight no longer seemed important. Smiling, I walked up to the woman, my own bag in tow. “Let me see your ticket again,” I said, motioning to the papers still clutched in her hand. She raised them for me to look at, a torrent of unintelligible words pouring from her mouth.
My first glance at the ticket showed the woman had arrived on a flight from Hong Kong. That meant she was probably speaking in Cantonese. A closer look showed she was flying to Boston and had missed her flight by almost an hour.
Wondering how many terminals we would have to travel on the AirTrain to find the next flight, I looked for the airline’s name. It was Delta—the same airline I was flying. The woman had been heading in the same direction as I was the whole time.
We walked briskly to terminal 1, where I explained the predicament to a blue-uniformed officer from the Transportation Security Administration. The officer promised to get the woman on the next flight to Boston.
I then looked for my boarding gate. With the assistance of another TSA officer, I found it with 45 minutes to spare.
The sun was setting as I settled into my seat in the Boeing 767. Glancing at the pink cotton-candy clouds hanging low over the shiny gray wing, I closed my eyes to thank God for the second chance. I also thanked Him that the flight had not left without me. Then I began to wonder what would have happened if I had missed the flight.
God quickly answered.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the pilot’s voice boomed over the speaker, “I am sorry to inform you that due to a technical problem, our flight will be delayed about 45 minutes.”
I cracked open Messiah.
Forty-five minutes later, the pilot announced another technical problem. The flight ended up leaving nearly two hours late, more than enough time to take the woman from terminal 1 to terminal 9 and back again.
“Our greatest influence on people is not in what we say but in what we are. People may challenge our logic, they may decline our invitations, but a life of selfless love is an argument they can’t resist” (Messiah, p. 91).
*Messiah, Jerry D. Thomas (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2002).
Andrew McChesney is a journalist who has been living and working in Moscow for the past 11 years.