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A woman, a baby, a plane and a lesson

When I fly, I often take a moment to observe the other passengers. It’s a favorite pastime of mine. One flight, though, stands out. 

Jim Whitmire

Jim Whitmire

A few years ago, on a stormy Friday night in the Newark, N.J., airport, I stood at my gate surrounded by tired business people in rumpled suits, all focused on getting home.

Shortly before boarding, I heard a baby crying in the distance. Soon the mother, dressed in a worn denim jacket and pants, and her wailing child approached our gate. The group dynamic abruptly changed. The body language and facial expressions of my fellow passengers seemed to declare, “Please don’t sit anywhere near me.”

I was not overly concerned. It was a large plane. The odds of this woman and child sitting near me? Slim, I thought. I boarded and found my customary aisle seat. I settled in for what was expected to be a turbulent flight. The seats filled up quickly, with no sign of the young mother. 

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

— Matthew 5:16, New International Version

Finally, she came down the aisle. She stopped in front of me. She glanced at the middle seat then back at me with a smile. My countenance sank as I stood to allow her to sit down. 

I’ll admit: I was thankful that I was not the poor guy stuck in the window seat. At least I could lean into the aisle for some relief. I again noticed the looks from the people around me.

“Better you than me,” they said without speaking.

I did my best to ignore the situation. Then the crying stopped. I looked over and noticed the man in the window seat. He was holding the baby and talking to the young mother. 

My conscience pricked, I decided to introduce myself. Come to find out, this was the woman’s first flight. She was taking the child to Birmingham, Ala., to visit her grandparents. 

Love is a demonstrable emotion. It is a choice we make. Jesus chose to love us, and we have an obligation to pay it forward.

I tried to help with the baby throughout the rest of the rough flight. When we arrived in Atlanta, I walked her to her connecting gate. She thanked me, and we said goodbye.

As I drove home, I remembered some of the words of Paul. In Romans 12:13, he writes, “Contribute to the needs of the saints, and seek to show hospitality.” The word “hospitality” suggests the idea of “love to strangers.”

Whether in our homes or on an airplane, we can make a choice to be hospitable, to show love.

In his book “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.” As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him,” Lewis said. 

Could it be that the number of members in the church continues to decline each year, at least in part, because we are not proactively carrying out God’s will toward those less fortunate than ourselves?

Love is a demonstrable emotion. It is a choice we make. Jesus chose to love us, and we have an obligation to pay it forward. 

Even today, I still fly at least once a month and am reminded of that night on an airplane long ago and my Christian responsibility to seek opportunities to help others.

JIM WHITMIRE is a former church elder and serves on the national board of Lads to Leaders. He and his wife, Rosalinda, attend the Buford Church of Christ in Georgia.

Filed under: airplane attitude crying baby good deads In the Word Opinion Top Stories What is love?

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