Something wasn’t quite right when the back tires of the Boeing 757 touched down in Dallas last Sunday. Travelers lulled into quiet thoughts by an uneventful flight were driven from their peace by the sudden side to side lurch of the plane.
Our seats were at the very back and that probably added to the sway. Still, I couldn’t remember a more dramatic touch down. My fellow passengers were strangely quiet again. When I looked over at Nancy, her chin was resting almost on her chest.
“Wow!” I thought. “She can sleep through anything.”
When I reached out to touch her arm to wake her, she squinted sideways at me and whispered, “I’m praying . . . I always give thanks when I get somewhere.”
And come to think of it, she does. Praying is one of her many ministries, but a major one. Not confined to her own well-being or that of family and friends, Nancy is always in prayer.
The plane’s taxi to the terminal was relatively short by DFW International standards. Yet, getting the door open proved to be a challenge for some reason. We never knew the story, being so far back. Despite the wait and the always present desperation of passengers needing to make close connections, the plane remained quiet. Maybe there were a lot of prayers being prayed.
I left the plane with a somber feeling. Even the flight attendants and captain seemed less cheery than usual. I wondered what could change this mood that seemed to have captured all of us.
We strode up the jetway toward the terminal, then inside and up a ramp that wrapped around the glassed waiting area for Gate C8. As I rounded the last turn to head into the concourse, I saw her framed in the glass corner.
She couldn’t have been more than two. Her dad sat close by, obviously dispatched to both distract and protect his daughter. I probably wouldn’t have noticed her except for the reaction she drew from almost everyone in front of me.
She would lean in, her little palms flat against the glass. She would peer expectantly toward the upcoming ramp. Then, when she saw a new face, she would explode with a giggle and a smile. And her explosion would envelope the traveler and they seemed different.
It was the unexpected uplift of spirit that alerted me. From the side as they turned, I could see their smiles. Their backs straightened and a spring seem to come back to their steps. I was already smiling when it came my turn. But I wasn’t prepared for what was to come.
When her eyes met mine, she pushed away from the glass. As she straightened she clapped her hands and laughed loud enough for me to hear her through the pane. I told myself that her reaction to me was more animated and heart-felt. Certainly, I had brightened her day. I could feel my own smile all the way down to my toes.
As I slowed, I saw her go back into her watchful stance and then bounce in merriment when Passenger 33D came up behind me. No, I realized. This was her ministry for the day, not mine to her. And I stopped to marvel at all of the people who minister to me in countless ways every day.
I want to minister. Yet, sometimes I think that it has to be complex. All the time knowing that immense good can be done with a quiet prayer and a sincere smile.