Sitting Next to a Pilot

            In these days of Kayak, Expedia, and Travelocity, you can select your seat for your flights. You want a window seat? Buy early and pick your view. Like me, you’d like some extra legroom? Keep your fingers crossed and see if there’s an open seat on the bulkhead. We can pick our seats, but unless we’re traveling with our family or a large group, we usually don’t know who will end up next to us. That’s where God comes in. I think the Lord likes to get involved in the process of selecting seats for us.

            Bill is a friend from my childhood. His father was my pastor. Bill is a pilot for Delta airlines. Earlier this week, he shared on Facebook a story from a recent flight he took, not flying the plane but sitting in a seat with the other souls.

Commuting is mostly drudgery. Today, however, was not. I usually board near the end of the process. I was about to take my aisle seat and a young lady was standing behind me looking around nervously. I asked her if she had the window seat and she said yes, but asked if I would please take it. I said sure! (I like to control the shade). Then she told me that it was her first time flying. I thought, oh boy. This can mean one million questions or even fingernail marks through your sleeve. This is not an unusual occurrence going in and out of Roanoke, due to the high concentration of country folk who have never been on an airplane. She was very respectful and polite, and since I was in uniform, she said that it was an answer to prayer that she got to sit next to a pilot. I decided that it was best not to tell her about that time I got all iced up and almost fell out of the sky, or discuss the Sully movie. We rolled down the runway, lifted off and began climbing. I was thinking "Thank God, it's a smooth day". A few minutes in, I looked over and saw that she had tears rolling down her cheeks and I asked her if everything was okay. She smiled and said that she was fine. Phew. Then she told me that flying was on her bucket list; that she probably had about six months left, and that she was very sad that she hadn't done this before. Jeez. Now I had tears welling up, so I decided to look out the window until I felt I was able to carry on a normal conversation.

A few take-aways here: You never know who the Lord will cross into your path. She was waiting for a liver transplant, but the due to her condition, the docs aren't holding out for a lot of success. So I will remember to pray for her. Secondly, it's nice to be reminded of how something that has become rather routine to me; is a still a thrill to another. It's also sobering to cross paths with someone who is gracefully facing her own mortality.

I asked her if she had anything else on that bucket list, and she said that she'd like to go sky diving. I said, 'Wow! It took you this long to get into an airplane, and now you want to jump out of a perfectly good one???'

            I trust and believe in a God who arranges the seating for pilots to sit next to anxious, first-time flyers. I think God likes to put us next to people who need us, even when we don’t know it or they don’t know it. God knows who needs to go where. So be ready to be seated next to someone who needs: a person of prayer, a parent with some experience, someone who is good with a checkbook or investments, a listener who can listen well, a light reflecting the greatest Light of Jesus.