“There you go Ms Donovan; you’ve been upgraded to business class. We begin boarding in fifteen minutes. Enjoy your flight.” I’m not quite sure how it happened and I wasn’t going to ask, just in case it was all a fortuitous mistake.
Upgraded to business class! Huge seats. Juice – in real glass cups. Magazines. Newspapers. My own armrest. And a two hour flight ahead of me in which to savour it.
I was settling in nicely with my headphones on, happily clutching just about everything on offer when the last passenger came battling down the aisle, awkwardly smacking passengers in front with her cumbersome bags; and a baby, cheeks ruddy with teething, clinging to her side – his wide-eyed stare fixed on me as she stopped…next to my seat.
My first thought was to fling myself across the spare seat next to me hollering, “TAKEN!” Instead, I smiled sweetly with the nonchalance allowed when wearing headphones and returned to my magazine. But it was impossible to ignore the flurry of activity beside me so I reluctantly looked up to see her struggling to stow her bags, while still being gripped tightly by the little person who refused to be set down in their seat.
After a few stern internal words with myself, I removed my headphones and held out my hands for this precious little person encased in a jumpsuit. His sprout of Einstein-like hair made me smile; obviously indicating to him that I was trustworthy enough to return the compliment.
For the next two hours I bounced him on my knee while his mother ate, spoke in that weird sing-song voice we use for babies to distract him when she needed to take a trip to the bathroom, and allowed this harried mum a chance to sip a cup of hot tea, fix her hair – with two hands, and take a breather, before emerging – free from spilled food, milk or baby vomit (I got a bit of that on my hand…too much bouncing!) – to greet her beloved waiting at our journeys end.
Sometimes it’s so much easier to retreat into selfishness – even though I am the first to admit that I need the support of a caring human almost as much as I need air and water. Loving others, even imperfectly at first, reminds me I am happiest when I live generously in all situations, rather than reserving my kindness for only a select few.
If Jesus came struggling down the aisle with a few more bags than His hands could hold, would I help? If He trusted me to look after His most precious possession while He went to the bathroom, would I do it? (Hmm, let me think?) YES.
“Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me,“ Jesus says in Matthew 25:40
I suspect that even our smallest acts of generosity can make an enormous difference in a stranger’s life if we are willing to remove the headphones and look up from the page.