Flight Delayed--Faith Renewed
December 9, 2007
On August 10, at around 2:00 in the afternoon, I should have been on the beach. I should have been surrounded by the beautiful Caribbean Sea, perhaps an umbrella drink in my hand, breathing in the wonderful healing tropical air. I should have been at a resort on Long Island Bahamas. I'd planned this getaway for over two months. I have been traveling solo to the West Indies every year--sometimes twice a year--since 1998. I find the sun, sand, music, and people in the West Indies to be extraordinarily healing. I've even joked with my friends that I think God must be West Indian. This trip was highly anticipated. I almost had a Bahamas vacation that was to have begun on the 10th...
I was all packed, ready and waiting for my 6 a.m. taxi pick up from my Takoma Park home to National Airport in DC. Taxi was on time. The check-in at US Air was long--but I had allowed plenty of time. Ticket in hand--I breezed through baggage check-in and the tedious security line. I was in the gate area one hour before flight time. Vacation--here I come.
While in the US Air baggage line for my Nassau flight, I started a conversation with the man in front of me. I noticed he had a folder that said "Baptist Conference" written on it. We started to chat. Sure enough--he was from Nassau Bahamas and was a Baptist minister at the oldest Baptist church in Nassau. I introduced myself as a minister also. Light chit chat as we inched through the line. We parted ways after he checked-in.
Once through security he caught my attention and invited me to join him and a colleague for breakfast. I had just purchased a rubbery bagel--and he was at a sit down restaurant. So, rubber bagel and coffee in tow I joined him. His name was Rev. Timothy Stewart, Sr. Minster at Bethel Baptist Church. The oldest Baptist church in Nassau, he heads a congregation of 800. I explained to him that I was an ordained Interfaith Minister, and of course that followed by what exactly an Interfaith Minister was. In short we believe that there are many paths to One God. He was an engaging man and our words came easily. At 7:55 we concluded breakfast and went to the gate area to await our 8:30 am flight. Once there we were told the plane would actually be leaving at 9:00. We sat down and continued to talk--about evil and joy, God and wonderment. About the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures. We laughed. We "high-fived". We were building a firm connection with each other. I then brought up what I thought might be our conversation stopper. I knew that in 2006 a gay cruise ship with 1600 passengers had been turned away from the Port of Nassau by angry Bahamians with protest signs that were anti-gay in nature. He was well aware of the event. Our conversation was never heated. It was heart-centered. It was respectful. It was based on love. Sure, we had some differences in our interpretation of the events, but we honored each others take on it.
When we emerged from that conversation, we decided to go to the gate to see what the status was of our flight. Imagine our surprise--it had taken off 30 minutes before at 9:01 am!!! We had been so focused on our chat that it was now 9:30. Neither one of us had heard a boarding call. To say we were both in shock is an understatement! The gate agent sent us to the Customer Service line which was at least 30 people deep. I got on my cell phone and called US Air to see what our options were. Perhaps if we could catch a flight to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale we could get to Nassau from there. And for me, once in Nassau I had to catch a flight to Long Island--which could only fly during day light hours. We almost got on a flight to Orlando--but, alas, not to be. Called US Air back--by now the Customer Service line was probably 50 people long. I asked US Air to look at the other DC area airports for options. They said American had a flight to Miami that left at 2:30 that had room. So, we caught a taxi to Dulles Airport. Once at Dulles--nope, that flight was full. And, by the way--the US Air flight to Nassau was sold out on Saturday and probably Sunday. All flights from Dulles to Florida were sold out. Rev. Timothy had his secretary in Nassau working on it from her end. He was told US Air had one First Class slot left for the next day--Saturday. He was desperate to get back to Nassau to be reunited with his suitcase, change clothes, and then make a scheduled flight back to Miami Saturday evening for a speaking appearance. Off he went to stand in that line--he did grab that seat for an additional $450.
For me--my options were running out. US Air would charge me an additional $600 if they rebooked me for Sunday... Flights to Florida were full... My return flight was now not guaranteed. With a deep inhale of faith and knowing that nothing is a coincidence, I called the resort to tell them I would have to cancel and would reschedule once I got my bearings back.
I know--yes KNOW, that there is a blessing in all that happens. With tears running down my face in the airport I breathed in that knowing, trying to remember that the glass is overflowing, and that something better was in store. And--I was miserable. Angry. Sad. Disappointed. And in incredible shock. This type of thing never happens to me. I am focused. Detail oriented. Exacting.
I called a friend to retrieve me--or, more correctly US from Dulles. Rev. Timothy needed a place to stay the night. Without hesitation, this Jewish Interfaith Metaphysical White lesbian minister lovingly invited Baptist Black Bahamian straight minister to spend the night and then drive him to the airport the next morning. And he accepted without a second thought.
We arrived back to my house at 3:30. I was beat and dispirited. Tears continued to streak my face. And, the first of what I know will be revealed as one of the many blessings of these events unfolded. Rev. Timothy became my coach and mentor. He saw me for who I really am. He encouraged my ministry. He saw the many gifts I have to offer and lovingly acknowledged and honored them. As low as I was feeling our conversation uplifted me and helped to remove some of the utter devastation I was immersed in.
After an hours rest, I took him out for a cultural encounter--dinner at his first Jewish delicatessen. He bravely tasted some of my matza ball soup. He avidly listened as I explained the difference to him between new pickles, old pickles, and half & half pickles. He learned what a falafel was, what kosher really meant, and since it was Shabbat--he listened as I repeated the prayers in Hebrew over the wine and bread. He didn't venture too far from his comfort level though--choosing mahi mahi for his entree. Our conversation continued to be fun, rich, loving, supporting.
After a trip to the drug store for him to get some toiletries, we came back home. I gave him one of my favorite metaphysical books for his bedtime reading.
The next morning we left my house at 6am to get him back to the airport to try again to make the 8:30 flight he missed the day before. We chatted on the way about Jews and Jesus. Heaven and Hell. Cultural sensitivities. Our innate sameness. I will be allowing these conversations to continue percolating within me--I know there is so much more to glean from them. And in my state still of shock and faith and disappointment and knowing I had reached my saturation point for the moment.
So, I was not on the beach. I sat in my office in Takoma Park MD. It was a beautiful day. I was awaiting word that my suitcase has returned from its brief vacation in Nassau. I was alive and ALIVE. I was grateful for my encounter with an envoy of God. I looked to find a little umbrella to stick in a glass of juice to take the place of the one I anticipated on the island. I knew God does not make mistakes. I knew that all was well and in perfect order.
My intention is to take this vacation in October. I am tempted to be totally anti-social as I go through check-in and security and not talk to anyone so that I won't become distracted again and have a repeat of this experience. And I know that what happened was exactly what was supposed to happen. I will be headed to the same small Bahamian island with one minor addition--a night stay in Nassau with Rev. Timothy and his family. When the airplane door closes--another one truly does open.
And so it is.
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