Friday, March 20, 2015

Holding Hands with a Stranger

Some say that a stranger is a just friend you haven't met yet. Sometimes that person might become a life-long friend or maybe just the one you need to get you through a leg of your journey.

Last Sunday, I had an early morning flight from North Carolina. After spending two whirlwind days with lots of different people (and loving every minute) with a long evening ahead, I was looking forward to some introverted recouping time and maybe even a little more sleep on my short hour and half flight home.
I learned a long time ago that when I am tired, I am a lot more open. When I am too exhausted to get in my own way, the walls come down. And that is usually when God wants me to learn something. So getting little sleep the night before may have been just as much His doing as the late night slurpee.

Sitting next to me is a Chinese woman, I would guess to be in her early 20’s. As the plane began to leave the gate, she leaned over and in a quiet voice I could barely hear above the roar of the engines asked if she could please hold my hand. Flying made her nervous, even though this was not her first flight. I told her I understood. My sister is the same way, I said. I tried asking her questions to help take her focus off the plane, but as soon as the plane began its takeoff she became statue still and held tightly to my hand.

Once we leveled off, she let go and thanked me for my kindness. I went back to playing my game. A few minutes later we hit some minor turbulence and suddenly she had wrapped herself around my arm and laid her head on my shoulder. Once again, I put my game away and spent the rest of the flight getting to know my new friend.

Between the broken English and her quiet speech, I gathered that she was flying home to China to return to work after visiting her husband in the states. So I asked her how long she had been married. Ten days she replied, she just finished her honeymoon but now needed to get back to work. She spoke so matter of fact, not like newlyweds here who are all giddy and gushing. She works for the Chinese government, something to do with retirement. She tried to explain it but she struggled with the words. I just nodded as if I understood. She also shared some of the pressure from the family she is facing due to her husband being in the states. 
About halfway, the plane hit some significant turbulence. She tightly grabbed my hand again and turned to me and asked, “How are you so brave?” I explained to her how I thought of the bumpy ride like a road with potholes in the sky. (I think something might have gotten lost in translation on that one)

We settled into a comfortable silence for a few moments, quiet but still holding hands. It’s as I am praying for her silently that I see/hear/sense it.


It was a gift to be able to give comfort and strength. It was a gift to be able to pray for her. It was gift to share a few moments. It was a gift to connect on a human level. I can't explain it, but it was a holy moment.

This flight. Sun Ling next to me. It was God’s gift. To us both.

We are made to connect with one another. Me in Michigan, you in China, South Africa, North Carolina or wherever… for 1 minute or 100 years… we need to connect. We need to offer the gift of our presence more, look someone in the eye, give a pat on the back, a big hug or just agree to let a stranger hold our hand. As I sat there I was so thankful I was offered such a gift and chose to accept it.  

And hey, if I ever find myself in Peking, China, I already have a friend.

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