I was just at the doorway of the Alaska flight, heading home after an all-day meeting in Ontario, and prayed, “Lord, I know you have already chosen whomever I will seat next to, but I ask, if you have something for this person or for me, make me available, let me be who you want me to be in order to help this person, whomever he or she is, to see and encounter You.”
I greeted the flight attendant and made my way down the aisle to my seat. In the window seat was seated a tall-looking, slender, young, college-aged (I guessed) Asian man in black sweats, a grey t-shirt and black slip on cloth shoes with mismatched socks. Later he said, „I grab two wrong socks; so wearing ever since!“ I couldn’t imagine 14 hours traveling with one short, short sock and the other calf-height, and taking it so easily! I think I would have purchased a new pair!
I sat down and introduced myself and met Eric. He was this joyful, laughing, talkative, open guy from Taiwan. Indeed, he was just returning after a really short trip home over the Spring Break week. He had been awaiting this connecting flight at the Ontario Airport for 7 hours.
“7 hours! That’s a long connection,” I said.
“Oh. It was fine,” he said, laughing: “I love watching the birds in the airport. They are so happy to watch!”
“Birds? Really? Inside?” I had not seen any!
“Yes. Birds,” he said. “I just had a class on birds since that’s connected to architecture, and before break we visited the Audubon Society. It was so fun!”
Truly, I thought, who finds such joy in watching the birds for 7 hours? This man was a unique, beautiful person! We talked about the connections with birds and architecture! I was in learning mode. He and I had hit it off.
A PSU student studying architecture, he had spent a year studying English prior to starting his major and now was in his third year of the major. He’d come to the states for he wanted to be around new people.
What eminated from Eric was joy. Such Joy. Like an immense splash of joy in all life everytime we interacted. He is Buddhist, by upbringing, but surrounded by Christians at PSU in his fraternity, and loving the fellowship with them. His frat loves serving, so he volunteered to help on our church’s community projects if he and his guys were available.
He took a nap and then we shared more. I shared a Scripture story about someone who reminded me of him, whom Jesus said was close to the kingdom. We had a great discussion. I joined in playing a game on his phone with him. As we landed he talked about getting the MAX. As we stood up, he said, “You are tall!” Indeed, standing, he was quite a bit shorter than me!
We laughed at this. I told him: “I could easily give you a ride home, if you’d like one and if you feel comfortable with me, having just met.”
He immediately responded: “Oh! I totally trust you!”
That’s all it took. So after we waited for his nice big bag, we took the bus to the parking lot, got my car, and I drove him into Portland. It could not have been easier to drop him outside of his apartment building. Before he got out, we shared phone contacts.
We’ve texted a few times. He shared some drawings he had done, and I shared some of mine. I let him know about a community outreach upcoming about a month after we met.
On Sunday, April 28th, we had our community outreach day for which we worship just briefly at 8:15 and then step outside and serve in the community for the day. He had six guys interested in coming, but about the time we began worship, I received a text from him saying he had overslept but still hoped to make it for the projects. Then he texted saying he couldn’t reach any of the guys who had wanted to come and was feeling terrible about it! I said we would pray, which we did. He wrote back, “I’m even praying!”
It was after we prayed that a friend, Stephen, did show so they drove over together. They had a great time working in the yard with us at the local school.
While they worked digging up weeds, Eric said “I love working in the soil! It is so much fun! We don’t have access to much soil in my apartment at home.” There was that joy in all things. I can learn from this guy!
Eric and Steven had to leave before lunch, but when asked if they’d like to take food with them, they gladly accepted. They loaded up chicken, potatoes, salad, and Eric said, “I don’t want to miss the prayer,” so I prayed with them.
They stood eating, and chatting with a group of us before leaving. In that conversation it came up that I’d driven Eric home from the airport and Steven was caught by this. His mouth full of food, his eyes widened, he looked at me saying to Eric, through chicken and potatoes, “What. Wait! That’s THE guy?”
His shock and joyful full-mouthed expression was marvelous. Eric laughed and said “Yes! That’s the guy!”
One of my friends at church looked at me saying, “Ok, that’s my new goal that someone would say of me, ‘That’s the girl?’ filled with that much joy.”
Life is filled with people to whom we can be light and hope. Eric in 20D has continued to bring that to me and I dare hope, I’ve brought it to him as well.