My wife, Gail and I were in an airplane, seated almost at the back. As the plane loaded up, a woman with two small children came down the aisle to take the seat right in front of us. And behind her, another woman. The two women took the A and C seats, one of the children sat in the middle seat, and the second child was on the lap of one of the women. I figured these were two mothers traveling together with their kids, and I hoped the kids wouldn’t be noisy.
The flight started, and my prayer wasn’t answered. The air was turbulent, the children cried a lot – their ears hurt – and it was a miserable flight. I watched as these two women kept trying to comfort these children. The woman at the window played with the child in the middle seat, trying to make her feel good and paying lots of attention.
I thought, Boy, these women get a medal for what they are doing. But things went downhill from there. Toward the last part of the flight, the child in the middle seat got sick. The next thing I knew she was losing everything from every part of her body. The diaper wasn’t on tight, and before long a stench began to rise through the cabin. It was unbearable!
I could see over the top of the seat that stuff you don’t want me to describe was all over everything. It was on this woman’s clothes. It was all over the seat. It was on the floor. It was one of the most repugnant things I had seen in a long time.
The woman next to the window patiently comforted the child and tried her best to clean up the mess and make something out of a bad situation. The plane landed, and when we pulled up to the gate all of us were ready to exit that plane as fast as we could. The flight attendant came up with paper towels, handed them to the woman in the window seat, and said, “Here ma’ma, these are for your little girl.”
The woman said, “This isn’t my little girl.”
“Aren’t you traveling together?”
“No, I’ve never met this woman and these children before in my life.”
Suddenly, I realized I had just seen mercy lived out. A lot of us would have just died in this circumstance. This woman found the opportunity to give mercy. She was, in the words of Christ, “The person who was the neighbor.” - Gordon MacDonald, from sermon “Pointing to Jesus: Generosity,” preached at Grace Chapel, Lexington, Massachusetts, 2-22-98
Leadership, Summer 2000, page 69