A smile crossed my lips as I tried to etch into my memory the sweet hugs and kisses from my time with my little granddaughters. I printed my boarding pass, checked my bag, then headed for my gate. After I proceeded through security, I placed my laptop back in it's bag, slipped on my shoes, and walked down the concourse towards my flight. I prayed my daughter caught her plane. Then, I strolled through the shops as I waited for mine. I bought an ice tea and a bottled water. And, that's when I noticed him.
A clean-cut, young man, who looked to be my youngest son's age, stood alone. His eyes met mine, then quickly looked away. But, in that moment, I surmised he either had a major hangover or perhaps lost his life-savings in the casinos the night before. We were in Vegas, after all. He looked so forlorn. Maybe he'd been jilted by a lover at one of the wedding chapel's on the strip. I glanced at him again. His eyes were so red and glassy, I even wondered if he were on drugs. Help him, Lord, I prayed.
I took a seat near my gate, and waited for the ticket agent to call the B group. When she did, I carefully squeezed in between passengers B10 and B12, ready to board the airplane. Lord, I prayed, who do you want me to sit next to? For, although my boarding pass read B11, I learned long ago, the Lord always seemed to orchestrate just who I sat next to,
I headed toward the back of the plane, hoping to find an aisle seat, all the while praying, Lord, where do You want me to sit? I chose aisle 21, placed my bag under the seat, and sat down. When, I looked up, I was surprised to find I was staring into the same sad and haunting eyes I'd seen near the airport coffee shop. Our eyes locked. Then, my heart sank. Were those tears? Yes, I definitely saw tears in his eyes.
He choose a window seat two rows ahead of me, dropped off his bags, then, walked past me towards to the back of the plane. There, I saw the flight attendant hand him several kleenex. He returned to his seat, swiping at his tears. Lord, should I change seats? Should I sit next to him? I sat there, uncertain what to do. I waited too long. A businessman took the seat beside him. Quickly, the young man put on dark sunglasses trying to hide his tears. "Lord, I prayed, please comfort him. Show me if I should say something to him."
The flight was a short one. I ordered coffee, wrote in my journal, and mediated on Bible passages I had recently memorized. Off and on, I prayed for the sad young man, for the quiet young woman next to me, as well as the others on the plane. After we landed, I turned on my phone, gathered my belongings, and stood in the aisle waiting my turn to exit.
The line moved slowly, as men and women grabbed their bags from the overhead compartments. In the commotion, I forgot all about the young man in row 19. I followed the crowd, but paused to let some slower passengers slip out in front of me. And then somehow, suddenly, I found myself standing right behind my dejected "friend." This had to be God! My heart pounded. I wouldn't miss another opportunity. I grabbed the muscular arm in front of me. He turned, and when our eyes met, I quietly asked, "Are you alright?"
My mom died yesterday morning," he answered with fresh tears brimming in his dark and sunken eyes.
"Oh Lord, what am I supposed to do?" I shot up an emergency prayer. Then, in the time it took for us to walk from the middle of the airplane across the bridge to the terminal, I learned that this young man had just said his forever goodbye to his mother, after her three year battle with breast cancer. And, now, he was on his way to check in for bootcamp the following day. He seemed relieved to talk, but also anxious to go.
"Do you have family? Do you know anyone here?" I asked, ready to give him our contact information. He assured me he had family in the area, and would not be alone.
I grabbed hold of his arm, once again, and looked into his eyes for the last time. "I'm sorry." I said. "I will be praying for you," Then, he turned and walked away.
Regret and grief filled my heart. My tears flowed the rest of the day. God had put that young man in my path, not once, but three times that morning. The first time, I misjudged him because of the look of his eyes. The second time, I hesitated, afraid to intrude when I realized what I saw in his eyes was pain. How I longed to go back, to have more time to hear his story, to pray with him, not simply for him. To ask him about his faith, and the faith of his mother. However, I also rejoiced. God had given me a third chance, putting him right in my path. And for a moment, I was able to show him that someone saw him and cared. I was able to listen to the pain that filled his heart, and poured out his eyes. And, I promised him I would pray. And I will pray for him. Would you join me dear reader, and pray for him too. By the way, his name is Aaron.