Recently I was on a flight from Atlanta to San Antonio. It was a typical travel leg: crowded plane, too-small seat, frustrated passengers ready to get to their destination. In many ways, it was completely normal. Until we arrived at the gate.
In the split second between the ding of the seat belt sign and the mad rush to grab bags from overhead compartments, the attendant came on the intercom and said,
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to ask you to remain in place for a moment. Today Delta has had the honor of transporting the family of a military hero. We want to give them the opportunity to exit the plane first. Out of respect for a fallen soldier, please stay seated.”
The ensuing silence was deafening. A plane full of over 200 people stayed stock still and mute as a stone as a military widow and two parents stood from the back of coach and made their way to the exit. It was a meager showing of respect for a family who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
In the two and a half hour flight, I had no idea that this family was sitting just a few rows behind me. Had I paid attention, I would have seen a young wife clutching a burial flag. Had I looked up from my book, I would have noticed a mother and father holding tightly to each other. Had I simply been aware, I might have been able to prioritize their needs over my comfort.
We face the same scenarios every weekend. Every Sunday, we pass by people in the pews who are hurting. Each time we gather, we run the risk of ignoring those who are in crisis. What if we slowed down, looked up, paid attention, and took the time to care?
Paul reminds us of this in Romans 12: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep…give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” (vv 10, 12, 17, ESV)
Look up. And look out for those who need a well-timed word of grace.