Monday, September 14, 2015
Carry One Another's Burdens
On a recent flight home, I was assigned to sit in a seat between two men. I sat down, and paid little attention to either one specifically. I was settling into my seat and the man to my left extended his hand, gave me his name and asked me if i was on my way home. I shook his hand and smiled and explained that I was on my way home. I asked him the same, and he began his story.
He explained that he had been on his way home for eight hours. He was working out of town and had been gone for several months, but today his wife had called to say that their young son had landed in the hospital. He was frantic to get home as the boy was not doing well. I could smell alcohol on his breath. His eyes were puffy from crying. I listened as he told me what was going on.
As he started to break down in front of me, I felt so helpless. I didn’t feel like I knew what to do. Here I was in this plane full of strangers. I was tired and frankly, when I walked on the plane I was looking forward to a nap. But I felt so much compassion for this man’s situation. I could tell he needed comfort. He then asked me if I could pray for his son. He was going to pray at that moment. I said that I would certainly pray for his son and his family.
Out of nowhere, he did something unexpected. He took my hand as he said a silent prayer. I offered a silent prayer as well. I expected him to let go of my hand when he was finished praying. He didn’t. He held my hand for a few minutes as he talked. At that moment, I decided that I didn’t care about what others thought. He needed to have someone show him true Christlike compassion. He needed someone to help him carry his load. And he was afraid of losing his child.
He began to cry more and leaned into me. I let go of his hand, and put my arm around him and let him cry. He still reached out to hold my hand and I put my other hand in a handshake position into his hand. We sat there like this for several more minutes.
After a while, he sat back up and I took the queue to let go of the embrace. He continued to talk. He said that I was the first kind person he had encountered all day. He told me that he was grateful to have another father sitting next to him; someone who could understand a father’s love for a child. He said he was grateful that I was a man of faith and someone who believes in God and was willing to pray with him - even if in silence. He said he felt that God had answered his prayers in having another man there who could help him complete this last leg of this trip and that he could find some peace because of my presence.
We were not of the same faith. We were not people who had a lot in common, but he was at that moment my brother. I could empathize with him because I too have prayed over my children in times of desperate need. I have felt the pain of helplessness at a time when it was my responsibility to protect. As another man, I could understand those feelings that are projected onto us and that we innately understand as fathers.
We talked about other things for a while. He was happy to discuss something else and then said that he could feel his burden lifted as we had talked. He said that he felt that I must be an angel sent to help him carry this burden at this very moment.
As we descended I decided I would help him get outside. I stayed with him as we walked to baggage claim. I helped him get his luggage out to the curb. His wife came and I helped him get loaded up. He came over and embraced me and thanked me for all I had done. He left and shortly after my wife came to pick me up.
I am not an angel in the sense that I am some heavenly being that goes around doing good deeds. I am just another human being. I am a normal man. But it strengthened my faith to know that we are all instruments in God’s hands. He puts us in places at the right time to help our brothers in need. I wasn’t put out by what I did. It didn’t cost me anything. I didn’t share any time with this man other than flight time. I didn’t leave my family waiting or have any great plans postponed to take the time to do what I did. Simply put, what I did was not a sacrifice at all to me. God put me in the right place at the right time to be his comfort when he needed comfort, to pray with him, and shed a tear as he cried.
Lifting our brothers doesn’t always require sacrifice. However, it is our responsibility to recognize those moments and do what a disciple of the Savior would do. Sometimes it just requires us to be present in the moment we are given.
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