Where else, except on a plane (or maybe an elevator), do we find ourselves in intimate spaces with absolute strangers? I have to admit that I try to avoid getting close to my fellow passengers by either having work to do or a good book to read. It usually works, and I’m left to read, write or just think my way to my destination. That’s why a few weeks ago, as I boarded a Sunday flight to NY, I had my NY Times already folded to the article I was going to read. Inching down the aisle, I spied my aisle seat and noticed someone already seated by the window in my row….so much for traveling alone.
he asked if I was “one of those people who avoids
talking by reading on the plane,”
I hurriedly tossed my coat onto my seat, hoisted my bag up into the overhead bin and sat down just in time to see my seat partner peeling my coat off his head! I quickly apologized and took out my paper. Surprisingly, he asked if I was “one of those people who avoids talking by reading on the plane,” following it with an account of a woman who sat next to him one time with her earbuds in but her phone off. I laughed but said, yes, I generally take out something to read during the flight. “Is that before or after you throw your coat on your seatmate?” He responded.
I laughed again, apologized for the coat incident, closed my newspaper, and we introduced ourselves…and did not stop talking until we landed in New York. Dwight Ogle was his name, Systems Technician in the Navy but currently stationed at the White House working in the office of Susan Rice, National Security Adviser to President Obama. Sounds like a line, doesn’t it? A video of his 3-year old daughter dancing with Susan Rice at the White House Christmas party was pretty convincing.
But it wasn’t just that – he showed me the video later on in our conversation. What convinced me was his faith story – how he became a Christian. Though he had a questionable childhood and grew up in pretty rough circumstances in a non-Christian home, Dwight was drawn to the neighborhood church even as a ten-year-old. In high school, friends dragged him to youth events, and on his own, he gave his life to Christ. The rest of the story is history… joining the Navy, meeting his beautiful wife who is a youth pastor; hosting youth events in their home and being a great dad to their 3-year-old. Future plans include getting a college degree. We talked for 2 and 1/2 hours about everything from Bernie Sanders to literacy to the White House but it was Dwight’s confidence in and willingness to profess his faith that was so inspiring. I have thought of him often since. His story reminds me of how God pursues us with an everlasting love and desire for our good. All we have to do is say, “Yes,” and our lives are changed forever.
Will I avoid talking to my seat partner on future flights? Well, I would have hated to have missed Dwight’s story…he enriched my day and I have thought of him often since. I will try to be more open…maybe not open my newspaper right away.