After a three-hour delay, I finally boarded my flight home.
Thought I highly doubt the writer of James would consider a flight delay a "trial," I'd adopted "count it all joy" as my mantra for the day anyway. I was truly grateful to be one step closer to home, and I wanted to have an attitude of gratitude! With exclamation point.
Then I met my seat mate.
He stood in the middle of the aisle, hoisting his suitcase into the overhead bin. Popcorn spilled from his pockets. Plastic bags of souvenirs were in my assigned seat.
"Excuse me, sir, are these your bags?"
"Oh yes," he said. "Just move them over to the middle seat."
I did as he said and settled into my chair by the window. Count it all joy! I was on the plane.
"I sure am glad you're skinny," he said as he sat down next to me. He had lifted the plastic bags over his head, and one of them fell in my lap. I laughed and handed it back to him. Count it all joy! I don't care about the skinny comment. I'll just sit as close to the window as possible and make myself skinnier!
I put on my headphones and turned on a worship album. I closed my eyes and turned my head toward the window. Count it all joy!
"WHAT KIND OF MUSIC IS THAT?"
Startled to reality by the loud voice, I turned to see my seat mate smiling at me and pointing to my iPad. I took out one earbud and said quietly, "It's a worship album."
"WHAT?!" he yelled.
I pointed to the genre of "Christian & Gospel."
"OH THAT SOUNDS VERY MEANINGFUL."
The toddler sitting in front of him put his arm between the seats and reached for us. My seat mate started playing with the little boy. Count it all joy! Back to my music!
At long last we were ready for takeoff, and my seat mate had fallen asleep. He awoke for a moment, and when he fell asleep again, his head landed on my shoulder. I squeezed toward the window, and his head moved forward. He started snoring.
Count it all joy!
The attendant arrived with the beverage cart, and I asked for a cup of coffee. I unlatched the tray table, which fell directly on the cup of coffee, spilling it between my legs and on my lap.
Count it all joy! There was still plenty of coffee in the cup to drink! And my seat mate was still asleep!
As I tried to clean my pants with the one, thin cocktail napkin, I felt something slap me on the head. Toddler In Front of Me was saying hello. Since his new BFF next to me was sound asleep, I'd become his new playmate.
Count it all joy. He's a kid. Be kind. So I gave him high fives and smiled at him and played a little peek-a-boo. Then his hand got stuck between the seats. He screamed. Mom turned him around. Count it all joy!
My seat mate started dreaming. Apparently he was riding a bicycle or swimming in the dream because he began kicking his left leg furiously. His foot landed on my purse, and he put all of his weight on it.
Count. It. All. Joy.
I eased my purse out from under his foot, awaking him. He yawned widely and said, "Wow, I got some sleep!" He pulled the bag of popcorn from his pocket and offered me some. As he crunched, pieces of popcorn fluttered on me.
Count.... It .... All....
He fell asleep again shortly after, and I spent the rest of the flight wondering about this guy. Who was he? Where was he from? For whom did he buy those souvenirs? How big was his pocket that he could fit a bag of popcorn in there?
The more I wondered about him, the less I had to say, "Count it all joy." When he woke up on the landing, I asked where he was headed. He asked where I was from. We engaged in our first real conversation of the flight. I enjoyed talking with him. That's when I looked at him and really saw for the first time....
He looked exactly like my friend, Clinton, who passed away three years ago.
I'd spent 90 minutes sitting next to this guy and didn't really see him until the last second. I blinked twice and wondered if I were in a weird dream myself. The guy was definitely not Clinton, but he looked enough like him to give me pause--and to bring back good memories of a dear friend.
Before standing up, my seat mate took out his dentures and placed them in a little plastic container. I didn't have to count it all joy. This flight home had not been a "trial" but an opportunity to see joy in the seat next to me.
Where has joy found you lately? Let's open our eyes to the goodness of God that we so often don't see right in front of us.
all good things to each of you,
* Here is a post I wrote about my friend, Clinton, shortly after his death.*