When I saw them coming, part of me considered tactfully moving. Though one of the children reminded me of my cute grandson, I was exhausted and not sure I was up for all the activity. With just one more flight in front of me, I breathed deep, smiled big and did what I could to welcome them into the section of vacant seats where I was waiting. By the time the man, the woman and their three small energetic boys had plopped themselves down in front of me, I had braced myself for the added noise. I later learned, had I moved, I would have missed out on an important reminder from the Lord.
Last Thursday I returned home from Africa. As rewarding as such trips are, coming home is always a welcomed experience. For me, the desire to see my family, and to sleep in my own bed, has always helped me to endure the long trips back. On this particular return, things seemed longer than usual.
My day had begun at 5am in a small town in western Kenya. After a full day of ministry and a four-hour drive through the Rift Valley, my travels home had just begun. Two and half hours in the Nairobi airport; nine hours in the air to London; four-hour layover in London; almost ten hours from there to Miami; by the time I dropped my backpack on the ground at my final flight’s departure gate, I was cooked. When the couple with three little boys showed up, it was clear we all had something in common.
“It’s been quite a day,” the mom said as she unbuckled the littlest one from his stroller. “I’m sure it has,” I smiled back. “Where are you coming from”, I asked. “London,” she said as the little guy climbed up on the airport seat and dumped all his m&m’s on the ground. Though I was tempted to tell her where my trip had begun, the more I watched her, the less my story seemed to matter. By the time they began boarding the aircraft and the little guy spilled water on all their boarding passes, any trace of my own self-pity had long since left the building. I shook my head one final time as the littlest one crawled on the floor under the ticket gate as the mom tried to unstick the boarding passes one from the other.
In spite of the fact that I ended up having to sit on that airplane an extra 45 minutes due to severe weather in Miami, my attitude had nowhere to go but to be thankful. The thought of having to keep up with those three little guys on that last airplane made my wait seem like a Caribbean vacation.
I don’t know how it is for you, but as soon as I think I’ve got it hard, God plops someone down in front of me who has it worse. You would think just coming back from where I was in Africa that message would have been freshly tattooed on my heart. Nonetheless, as I learned, it doesn’t take long to forget.
Though it’s clear we all have our challenges, it’s also clear we have a ton of stuff to be thankful for. In the end, I thank God for His gentle reminders. Not only did He get me home, but He got me here with an extremely grateful heart.