Flying can be an isolating experience, which is ironic because airports and airplanes are usually crammed full of other people. But when you fly, your own needs and wants take up a substantial amount of space in your mind. Do you feel that way, too?
I get anxious just thinking about trying to check my bags, get through security, make my way to the correct terminal, use the restroom, and overpay for a snack all before it is time to board the plane. If I am not totally self-absorbed, I might miss my flight. Strangers around me are only obstacles to my ultimate destination, which is the window seat in aisle 22.
It is a rather surreal social experiment, is it not? Airlines stuff a hundred strangers into a metal container like sardines, and then suspend it tens of thousands of feet in the air for a couple of hours. And passengers pay them for this experience!
At some point, though, you have to notice that you are not alone on this excursion. Not only to ask things like, “Why can’t those parents keep that baby quiet? Why won’t this man stop taking up the whole armrest? When is the flight attendant going to bring me the ginger ale I ordered?” But to realize that these are not just annoyances, but they are people with stories. And maybe their stories are not that different from yours and mine.
When I fly, and I find myself being bothered by the tiniest things, I often struggle to open up my mind to a bigger picture. What if I went through every day of my life like I went through an airport – eyes forward, elbows out, and only concerned with my own fate? I hope that is not the case. How lonely that would be.
Life is more fulfilling when we invest in relationships. It is more meaningful when we spend time with other people rather than merely making our way around them. It is less daunting when we understand that there are others who are also “along for the ride.” I usually come back to the idyllic image of community in Acts 2. The author describes people as being “together” and having “everything in common.” Livelihood is not only individual, but it is collective.
Simply noticing our shared our humanity makes a big difference in how we walk through an airport, and it makes a big difference in how we live our everyday lives. Thank you, Lord, that we are not alone. And be patient with us when we forget.