When I headed out to NEXT last week, I had a bit of an awakening. Literally, an awakening from fake-sleeping.
After finishing up with my CPM meeting that Monday morning, I headed towards Midway airport to make my way to the NEXT Church Conference in Atlanta, GA. Since Southwest is my air travel of choice, I was pretty excited to find myself with an “A” group seating. The possibility of sitting towards the front of the plane was eating. “Why?” you ask. Because everyone knows that to sit in front of the engines provides a better experience: you don’t have to have the sound of the engine in front of you for your ride.
I sat down in the 4th row, by the window. I assured myself that since this was not a full flight, there would be no one to sit in the middle seat between myself and the well-dressed man in the aisle seat. So, I did what any good flyer would do to deter people from sitting next to me. I tilted my head back, and made myself comfy by sprawling out as much as I could. My hope was anyone even thinking about sitting next to me would totally think twice as soon as they saw the obnoxious person half-passed-out, mouth-open, drooling, and totally willing to sleep anywhere (which is totally bogus).
As I sat with my heavy mouth-breathing for all to hear and see, one gentleman, we’ll call him Joshua, decided it was a great idea to sit next to me. I acted as though I was happy to have someone sit next to me and didn’t mind being woken from my fake slumber. But I was living a lie. I was not happy to have someone next to me.
To make it even better, he started talking. Not just talking, but starting a full-on conversation. I tried to get out of it. I offered one-word answers. I looked at my phone. I tried looking at the food-out safety information (who really ever does that?!). I tried closing my eyes like I might actually sleep on a plane (yeah, right). Nothin was deterring this gentleman.
So, I gave in. And I started talking. He told me about his daughter, he told me about his recreational drug use, about his gout, about his family’s business. He told me everything he could think to tell me. It was possibly the most interesting conversation I have had in months. This gentleman didn’t have any reason to talk to me, except he wanted human interaction, and since I was the human closest to him, he interacted with me.
I thought of the first time I ever felt on a plane. I was traveling to my grandfather’s funeral in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was 19, and I was wide-eyed at the idea of getting on a plane. I convinced the older woman next to me to let me have the window seat, and I watched out the window in wonder as the plane took off. And I spoke to that woman sitting next to me, the entire flight. She wasn’t in the market for a new friend, but I needed to process what was happening to me. I was on a plane for the first time and I needed human interaction while it was happening.
That woman didn’t have to talk to, but she did. She talked to me and told me about her children, her deceased husband; she asked me about my family, what I was studying in school, and what I thought about the flight. That woman probably didn’t want to talk to me. She probably wanted to just sit there and enjoy her flight and relax. But she talked to me because I needed human interaction.
That gentleman on my flight wanted human interaction, and it wasn’t until I was a part of it, did I realize I wanted human interaction too. I won’t ever see that gentleman again. But I got to interact with him and hear part of his story and he part of mine. That is the important part. We shared who we were for a few hours, just like that lady and I did on my first flight. Because that’s what we are meant to do.
I like to think that sharing is caring (when it’s done properly). And by sharing a bit of ourselves, we were caring for one another in those moments.
Go care for someone and let them care for you.