Monday, March 17, 2014

Planes, Passports, and People


I just returned from Hawaii, where I spent my spring break with my family and visiting the University of Hawaii at Manoa looking at a Ph.D. in Natural Resource and Environmental Management in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. I have been very bad about updating my blog in the past week and a half or so, but before leaving for Hawaii there wasn't a whole lot to post about; we worked on a few small projects around the Live Beyond campus. Anyhow, back to the point of this blog post, which mainly focuses on a few my flights to and from HNL.

I arrived with Paige around 07:15 at the airport, dropped off by David and Devin. Little did any of us know that DELTA's ticket counter would not open until 12:30. With no seating area for those pre-check-in, I found a nice cozy spot on the floor next to an outlet and took about 5 hours to enjoy my high-speed internet for research. Finally, the counter opened and I was able to check-in, still 3 hours early. With nothing but time I wandered around the pre-departure area of the airport until I found a lounge area with a few food options. I enjoyed a "chicken sandwich" (more like pulled chicken on some kind of sub bun, but I enjoyed it nonetheless). With the time dwindling down to departure I took the creaky steps down from the lounge to the DELTA gate area. After a long security screening, I eventually boarded the Boeing 737 and took the isle seat beside an elderly Haitian lady, who eventually moved to the window when we concluded it was just us two.

This wasn't just any elderly woman though; she was fragile, illiterate, and just in need of a good "bless your heart." I sat beside her and smiled, it was just us two in our three seat row, and asked how she was doing in Creole. Her response was so mute I could barely understand her, but I as looked into her eyes, saw the forced smile she wore like a mask pushing all the pain back, I knew this woman was desperate for something better and that I could not possibly imagine the trials she has and does face in her life.

With takeoff approaching, I bucked my seat belt. We watched and listened as the safety presentation that is redundantly given on flights started. Typically, this is when I put in my headphones and lay back and go into flight mode, a.k.a. catch some shut eye (you can ask Mallory Warmack - it's impressive). However, this time I didn't; no specific reason, I just didn't. When we got to the seat belt part of the presentation, the sweet, frail woman next to me mumbled something to me as she analyzed her seat belt along with the one between us. I soon figured out via non-verbal communication that she had no idea how to buckle her seat belt, even after I tried to demonstrate for her. After seeing a few moments of confusion on her face, I unbuckled and fastened her belt for her. She mustered, again, that pain stricken smile to me and mumbled thankfully.

Later on in the flight, my co-pilot had to use the restroom. As she fumbled around, I demonstrated with the belt next to her how to take her seat belt off; which she successfully accomplished. Minutes later she walked by and I tried to reach for her, but she walked on by. A woman in the same row, opposite the isle, got her attention with Creole and pointed to her seat. This poor woman, flying solo, had forgotten where her seat was. Furthermore, I had to buckle her in once more. However, the worst was yet to come.

The flight attendants soon started passing out the customs forms to come into the US. The woman next to me had a huge look of confusion on her face and the flight attendant and I (using my handful of words in Creole) were failing to effectively communicate with her. This time the woman across the isle from me translated and we discovered the woman knew she was going to New York, but that's all she knew; on top of that she couldn't read or even write her name. The woman translating took her passport and customs form and politely filled it out for her.

I could write about this experience for days, but I think I will let your own heart and mind ponder the thought of an aged woman who is unable to write her own name, unable to read and copy information, unable to figure out how to buckle up. My heart found its way back to that experience multiple times through the week and was pricked each time. There are people in Haiti-people all around the world-with the same problem. The best way to help a developing nation and help a people help themselves is through education, whether that's agricultural education, basic education, or ESL, education is the foundation of a better life. Don't take yours for granted. Use the empowerment you've received to empower those around you and increase their quality of life; in the US, the Philippines, Haiti, wherever you are.

I often hear stories of people who sat beside so-and-so before they "got big" or, as Mrs. Pride, my 5th grade teacher told us once, saw Michael Jordan at a hotel. How cool would that be?! Well, I can't say that I sat beside a celebrity (after all, I was flying coach) or saw one. However, as I sat cozily in my seat waiting to see how I had rolled the die in terms of who would sit beside me on the plane, a thin blonde headed guy walked up and pointed. I later found out he was 20, but I didn't think he was a day over 18.

He sat down, and trying to be friendly, I struck the conversation up. Whoa! This dude was fresh from Germany; direct flight to ATL. I asked what his business was in LAX and he responded with training for motocross. That was all I needed to hear. We talked MX for quite a while, and I told him how a girl I was staying with in Haiti, Lexi, was friends with Trey Canard; he said he had raced with Ken Rozken. This was a total trip! I messaged my motorcycle crazy family (the group message with my parents and sister) and got them excited. Well, I would say I didn't do anything weird, but I was that guy. I had him sign my notebook and date it, so that I would have it when he hit "the big time." He was such a chill dude. Kim Lehmann.. look for that name in motocross in the upcoming years.

You know, you never know who you will run into at the airport, or anywhere else for that matter. You never know who you will see, or what they will become. The bigger thought: no one ever knows what YOU will become.. we each have the opportunity to follow God and make something of ourselves. It doesn't have to be a world class motocross racer or a movie star, but simply someone called according to His purpose. What will you become?

With travel back and forth between the Philippines, I am a DELTA Silver Medallion holder; not THAT legit, but it has its perks nonetheless. One of those perks is having an upgrade automatically requested. I checked my DELTA app and it showed 10 available upgrades for business class, but I wasn't eligible for the upgrade. Don't think me as one of "those people," but I had the opportunity to spend a 5 hour flight a lot more comfortable, so I wanted to find out why I wasn't eligible for upgrade.

In front of me in line to talk with the whatchamacallit guy that handled tickets was an elderly man who was trying to get a seat with his wife; they were separated. As I thought about how much more enjoyable the flight would be sitting beside your other half (not that I actually know what that's like), I spoke up and offered my seat if it were to be useful. The guy took the seat down and said he would let me know.

Then, it was my turn. I asked about the upgrade and he said that upgrades weren't offered like that for flights to JFK. I just said it was no big deal and I just wanted to try my luck. He reminded me that he would let me know if he needed to swap my seat.

I sat, waiting to board, and business class was being called. Right before I got up to get ready to board with Sky Priority the man at the counter said my name, "Mr. Cherry." I looked up, "yes?" "I needed your seat," he said, "here's your new ticket." I looked; business class! I thanked him and went to board. It amazed me how something so little as offering your seat if it's needed God would reward. He truly is great!

I sat there thinking I had my row all to myself; extra room for my junk, extra bottled water, and no risk for crazies to sit beside me. However, God wasn't finished. Right before the doors were closed a Chinese man came and sat in the seat next to mine. Noticing my A&M cap, he asked about it. We discussed my studies, research, Johnny Football, and plans for education while he intently asked questions and listened, sharing bits of his own life. This Harvard grad had some cool stories, did some great work to help the people in China, and knew some awesome people; awesome people as in those high up in the Philippine National Bank and the Philippine government. We chatted quite a while before both going to sleep.

Upon waking, talking some more, and landing we exchanged handshakes and business cards. He was interested in the work in the Philippines, agricultural development, and was just an all around genuine guy. God not only gave me an upgrade, but he placed me in he path of someone that can help me benefit His Kingdom. Again, you never know who you might meet. This guy had no idea he would run into me, but he took the opportunity, thanks to God, to network with me because he knew he might could help me. Perhaps, I am in his path as well to help him. We often notice how God places people in our paths that can help us improve out lives or help us in some way, and that's okay, but how often do we look to see if we are placed in the path of someone else to help them? All it takes is you striking up a conversation because of something like a university ball cap..

God is good.. All the time. All the time.. God is good. I pray that He blesses you!
I am back in Haiti and we start the work week back up tomorrow. I will be trying to update my blog based on that, as well as having a post about my time in Hawaii. Look for it!

"And we know that all things work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28


1 comment:

  1. Another "ordinary" day in the life Audie Cherry!