I do not like to fly in airplanes. I don’t have any phobias about flying and like to travel to interesting places. I just did so many business and personal airplane flights that I grew to dislike this part of the journey. Since the September 11th tragedy and the increasingly competitive airline business, the jet-set lifestyle isn’t fun anymore. In fact, airplane travel can be exhausting: packing, driving to the airport, ticketing, going through security, waiting at the gate, boarding airplanes, deplaning, waiting in immigration lines, finding checked bags, and departing the airport. This assumes an uneventful flight – no delays, cancellations, or lost luggage. I know the routine and anxiously watch for pending problems during the journey.
Travel is part of many vocations. From airline employees to businesspersons, millions of workers travel as part of their work. It is a normal aspect of working.
Recently, my wife and I flew from Victoria BC to Austin. We first took a small plane from the regional Victoria airport to Seattle. The flight was less than 30 minutes and on-time. It was uneventful, which is my kind of plane flight. We deplaned onto the tarmac and took a shuttle bus to the Seattle terminal. We walked down a walkway to US immigration. When I saw that the immigration line extended out into the walkways, I knew something was wrong.
Luckily, we are Global Entry members, so we bypassed the main immigration area and went to the Global Entry kiosks. One minute later, I was done and started to walk towards the baggage area. A woman about my age rushed to a kiosk and frantically tried to use it. She had her passport incorrectly inserted. I walked over to her and told her what was wrong. She reinserted it correctly and the machine responded. She did not thank me and just kept hitting the screen.
We walked to the baggage area and our bags were already there (thank you Alaska Airlines)! We walked to the baggage exit and quickly dropped off our checked bags for our flight to Austin. The Seattle airport security lines were longer than usual, so we waited in line. Suddenly, the same woman from the Global Entry kiosk rushed by us and cut into the front of our security line. She never explained her bypassing the queue and while a number of other people made shocked reactions, people allowed her to go ahead of them.
After we were scanned by security, we walked to get our scanned bags. The line cutting woman was arguing with the airport security person who was examining her bag. It contained a metal water container with liquids: a definite airport security violation. She was arguing with the security man that she was in a hurry and needed her bottle back. He calmly explained the rules as she argued. We walked to the airport tram amused that we made it faster through security than the woman who cut in line.
We walked into the airport tram to transfer to our terminal. Just as the doors were closing, in jumps the same woman in a rush. She acted as if there was nobody in the tram! When it stopped, she raced in front of us. As we approached our gate area, we saw her filling her bottle with water. We wondered why all the rush if she had time to refill her bottle? Was this just her personality or was she disparately late for her flight? My wife and I will never know.
Air travel can be stressful and exhausting. But Christians can make the journey so much easier by understanding that commercial airports and airplanes are communities. We don’t know the vast majority of people who travel alongside us, but they are God’s creatures. Loving our neighbor starts with the person seated next to us on the airplane, train, or bus. Expressing gratitude to airline staff, security workers, and all people who assist us with our journey is expressing our love to humanity. Assisting the elderly and confused shows people you care.
Once we become so self-absorbed that we forget about our community, our Christianity is in name only. Actions speak louder than words. Even within places I don’t like to visit, like airports and airplanes, Christ’s light illuminates the darkness. Recognition starts by seeing those around you as just as important as yourself. The Christian’s journey is looking outward instead of only inward.