Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people
have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. – Hebrews 13:2
It had been a glorious week in Nebraska filled with cherished memories. I had returned to preach at the little Methodist Church in Clatonia where I had been baptized and confirmed and where my grandparents and parents had also been members. It was wonderful to see cousins and old friends from high school and university days. And it was particularly special to visit the farmland where I had grown up with horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and my faithful three-legged dog Brownie. I even visited our old farmhouse (built by my grandparents in the early 1920s) which had been taken off its foundation, put on wheels, and moved from our farm near Clatonia to Wilber; a distance of nearly 11 miles. I can vividly remember every nook and cranny of that beautiful house. The “new” owners have surrounded the house with a stunning vineyard, which they planted in honor of their son. What a sight for me to see.
All in all, it was a remarkable experience and I was basking in the memories as I boarded a plane in Omaha for my trip back to Jacksonville, Florida. Unfortunately our takeoff was delayed and when we landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, we waited on the runway for 15 minutes before arriving at our gate. It wasn’t looking good for me to make it to my connecting flight. When we finally disembarked, I was surprised to find we were out on the tarmac without a jetway, which meant I must navigate some very steep stairs – a challenge for me. Since it was almost time for my next flight to board I hoped there would be someone in Charlotte to meet me. That was not the case. Not an agent or a wheelchair in sight – just an expanse of tarmac to cross to get to the terminal. I knew my connecting flight was on the far side of the airport, about a 15 minute ride on a cart. Fortunately I had been sitting on the plane next to Tonya, a beautiful, highly successful business woman based in Charlotte. As we deplaned she grabbed my bag and helped me stagger into the terminal. She kept saying to me, “I will not leave you, Joy. I will help you get to that next flight.”
And true to her word, she never left me. Once inside the terminal, there was neither agent nor anyone else to help me get to the next gate for my flight. When Tonya spotted an empty wheelchair she grabbed it, told me to sit and started pushing me – along with her roller bag and my bag toward the next set of terminals. Suddenly out of nowhere a Piedmont Airlines man appeared beside us and said, “Let me help you.” I had not flown on Piedmont so I was surprised. “Where are you going and what time is your flight?” he asked. After I told him, we raced through the airport – my new friend Tonya, the Piedmont man Jerry, and me in a wheelchair flying as fast as we could. By this time the flight to Jacksonville was likely boarding or possibly finished. And of course, the airport was packed with people. I can still hear Jerry and Tonya politely yelling: “Excuse us! Coming through!”
I felt I was in the hands of angels. Tonya and Jerry never left my side until they got me to the gate for my flight to Jacksonville – which was just about to close its door. When I turned to thank them and to try to pay Jerry for pushing my wheelchair, they were gone. Like two angels that had done their job and taken flight– not needing anything so worldly as a tip or even a thank you.
As I boarded the plane with the flight attendant carrying my little bag ahead of me, I tottered a bit with my cane. A man in the first-class section said, “Honey, where are you going?” I replied, “Somewhere back there. I’m just so happy to be on this plane.” He got up and said, “No, darling, you are sitting in my seat. It’s my turn to go to the back. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat in the cattle car and you need to sit right here.” Although I tried to convince him not to give up his seat, he insisted I sit there like a first-class customer.
I was so overwhelmed with the compassion of three strangers that I burst into tears of gratitude. Not only was I on the last plane to Jacksonville, I had been treated with such love and kindness by three complete strangers – astonishing angels. I wasn’t expecting it. I was filled with gratitude. I believe it’s a wonderful lesson for all of us: Be an angel to a stranger!
* Have you ever had an angel reach out to you when you really needed one?
* Have you reached out to someone and become an angel for them?
Beloved Creator, thanks for sending angels to help us when we most need them. May we learn to recognize and be grateful for angels who show up and care for us. Teach us how to be angels to others when we see someone in need. Amen.