The Southwest flight was running late, very late. For many, the pressure of being late had moved on to frustration. Their words were curt. The manners were abrupt. Everything in their manners and attitude told us they were angry. We did not need to be put on notice. We could feel their emotions.
As we shuffled down the aisle, searching for our seats and a place to stash our bags, the senior flight attendant’s voice gave us cautionary advice.
“We have a full flight. The overhead bins are filling up fast. I suggest you use the first free space you find on the way to your seat.”
As I watched the faces of the passengers boarding, their skepticism was obvious. Whoever the voice was, she did not know what she was talking about. Their whispered conversations were easy to hear.
“Everyone should have a place for their bag.”
“We deserve to have our bags near us.”
“I am sure there will be room near my seat.”
The cynicism in their voices was infectious. Within seconds, there was a parody of old story playing out on the plane. “Resistance began to form as some of them began spreading evil rumors through the congregation about the Christian way of life.” (Acts 19.9)
I listened with amazement. Their conversations had no foundation! I could not imagine where they had found their “facts”. They talked about motives and intent. Even though I had witnessed the beginnings and how things had involved, I did not know how they had drawn their conclusions.
The flight attendants ignored the rumors and whispers. They moved in and out of the passenger line, helping individuals find a place for their bags. Their demeanor was calm. Their attitude whispered quiet compassion.
The tensions that were growing quietly disappeared. Without a formal announcement, the facts became clear to everyone. There was more luggage than obvious room. We needed each other’s help. There was a clear invitation to be a community.
One act of helping gave birth to another. We found that the bags could and did fit.