Strange events today at the Minneapolis airport. Approaching a long moving walkway, I noticed a Northwest Airlines ticket holder with at least one boarding pass lying about four inches from the beginning of the track. Like a typical passerby, I didn’t do anything about it, hoping it was just a used boarding pass someone had tossed. But it nagged at me, so I went back, picked it up, saw that it had an unused boarding pass for someone going to Waterloo, Ohio in 90 minutes, and then faced the quandary of what to do about it. Immediately to my right was a security officer, and he knew what to do. He would call the gate, let them know, and also assured me that the holder could get one reprinted, if needed. Well, I’m not sure that helped, but it made me realize that I ought to be willing to interrupt my plans a little more frequently when help out with small things like that. Need to look around and notice opportunities to help a little more.
The minute or so delay also changed my timing for a more interesting event. A few minutes later I was walking past an escalator that was taking people to an upper level. I had taken about two steps along the right side of the ascending escalator when I heard a soft cry of alarm, or more of an angry grunt. A woman with a brace on her left leg was struggling with her bag. I suddenly realized that something was wrong and that she was starting to fall backwards. I think her brace might have become snagged on part of the moving stairway for a moment. Amazingly, I was close enough and tall enough that I could simply reach over with my left hand and support her on her back as I walked forward at the side of the escalator. It was just in time, because she suddenly was leaning sharply backward and I had to push hard to get her upright, doing so just before she reached a height where I could no longer reach. It all happened so quickly, and I’m amazed that I was there and that my instincts kicked into gear fast enough to help instead of just watching in horror (more my normal style). Weird.
But those experiences suggested an analogy of sorts.
There are plenty of situations in life where one simple step puts us on a path where powerful forces can carry us far from where we were with almost no further effort or intent on our part. Sometimes these paths take us away from what we need or where we need to be, leaving behind, in effect, the tickets to our intended destination. Sometimes these paths, while promising to lift us up, actually threaten to topple us with a deadly fall. But even if we have take the errant step on one of these dangerous paths, the Lord does not forget us, no matter how dire out situation, and can provide means for us to return, to regain our balance, and to move ahead to where we need to be. Sometimes those means might be a friend, a stranger, a bishop, the missionaries, etc., but in the end it is really the hand of the Lord that reaches out to steady us, if only we’ll let cry out for His help.
The analogy could be amplified by my strange experience in getting to the Phoenix airport this morning, where everything seemed to go wrong, and my fifteen minute drive to the airport became a 90-minute comedy of errors, bad luck, and traffic surprises that got me to the airport far too late to catch my flight, or so I thought. How amazed I was to see that it was a 7:50 a.m. flight instead of the 7:30 a.m. flight I thought I was missing. I barely made it on the plane and learned quite a few lessons in that process – but that’s another story. The key moment, though, was when I pulled into an empty parking lot of a closed and dark Post Office, anxious to find some help, when a truck pulled in that I could wave down and get directions. Long story how I ended up so far from the right path, on a road without gas stations or signs of life for miles – but again, it was a stranger at just the right time who was able to provide the help I needed. So much of the good in my life has been due to the kind touch of someone else at the right time to get me back where I needed to be.