With heavy eyes and tired bodies, we waited patiently for our flight to board. As blissful as Jamaica was- the days were long and our muscles were tense from travel and enjoyment. A delayed flight changed our clean cut plan of flying into Charlotte to an abrupt detour- a connecting flight to Philadelphia (the last thing two, tired Honeymooners desire to hear). As we sat in uncomfortable airport chairs, scoffing down a quick pre-flight snack, our names were called abruptly over the intercom. A thick Jamaican accent demanded us up front. We walked up, reluctantly, with an “Uh-oh. What now?” kind of demeanor. Turns out they needed us to board the plane early, due to a handicapped, neighboring passenger who needed to be lifted onto the plane and could not move after being seated. My husband reassured them that we were okay with this situation and suggested that the passenger have the window seat.
Minutes later, I saw her. As I approached the middle seat of our three-seated side of the plane, her eyes met mine. 90 somethin’ she must be, I thought. Her beautiful, dark skin almost matched the black dress she was wearing. By contrast, her weak blue eyes peered from beneath a black cap she wore neatly over the four, grey braids that were hanging to her shoulders. The wrinkles on her body were like the ripples I saw when a rock was thrown into the Jamaican waters; each one leading to another. I greeted her with an excited smile. “Hello ma’am! How are you!?”
Her response was a mumbled jumbled sentence in a language I couldn’t understand. This would set the tone for the entire trip. She continued to speak to me in her language- making requests that were hard to comprehend. I nodded and obeyed as best I could – strapped her seatbelt on, let her tray down, reassured her that we would be leaving soon. Not knowing if any of these things were what she was asking for or needed, but trying anyway. My husband smiled and watched and interjected with ways I might be able to assist her. During the plane ride, I somehow ended up ordering her refreshments, helping her place her pretzels neatly on a napkin, put a straw in her drink, and helped her enjoy a quick snack. The flight attendant walked by and smirked, “You come into this world as a baby and leave this world as a baby, as well,” he said. I nodded in agreement and looked over at the woman who was grateful for help.
For the remainder of the ride, this pattern continued. She tapped me and spoke in a foreign language, signaling whatever she needed. And I tried my best- happy to serve and happy I was needed. “Stuff like this always happens to me,” I told my husband. And I accepted it as my God-given assignment for the day. I decided I couldn’t leave the flight without knowing her name, her story. “May I see your passport?” I asked as I reached for it. She nodded to give her approval. Myrtle was her name. 94 years old and born in Jamaica. I tried to inquire a little further about who she might be visiting in Philadelphia. I think she mentioned a daughter there- but only God knows. I let out a sigh of relief for the fact that I got to learn her name at the very least.
Myrtle. An example of how God can use us in unanticipated ways. I am certain she thought I was a personal assistant of some sort. She didn’t know I was an ordinary girl who was honeymoonin’ with her husband. And that was unimportant. I was called to just be present and to serve her in that moment.
“How long befur sumwon com fur me”, she mumbled as I departed from the plane- the first statement from her mouth that I could actually understand. “They will come shortly I hope. God bless you,” I said with a smile. And we parted ways.
It may not have been a comfy flight of rest. But it is a flight that I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you, Myrtle, for blessing me with your wisdom without saying a word I could understand. I was forced to take my eyes off of me and to turn them to you – a stranger.
“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.