Finding HOPE In Flight

Normally on long flights, particularly international flights, I treasure my aloneness as "me time." I don't have to feel responsible, or guilty, about all those who I made commitments too, or simply promised to be there for. Well, on my long flight over to Oslo, Norway on Saturday I had it all mapped out; I was going to catch up on movies I wanted to see, and some writing and work that I needed to do. This said, I have always said, "if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plan." It was about a quarter way into the flight into London when my seatmate leaned over to me, noticing my brief conversation with a flight attendant, and asked me about my faith - my "spirit." Odd question for a stranger to ask, but a good one. And so started a conversation that last for more than two hours, and enriched he and I both.

You see, my seat mate, whose first name was Michael and just so happened to be Caucasian, was having some struggles with his own faith, although I must say his instincts and inner reflections about God, and faith, were really good once he did shared them with me. He was also deeply concerned about his sister, who was dealing with her own life problems. Anyway, without getting into too much detail, nor betraying his trust, we both left the conversation "better," and certainly this rare in-flight conversation for me was better than any book I could read, nor try to write. You just never know where your blessings are going to come from, nor who you can help, simply by and through sharing yourself.

We talked about friends who "don't believe," and those we both know who believe, and judge. The easiest one to deal with was those that don't believe, funny enough. The reality is all the things we seem to value - what we own, what we look like, who we know, what we do, how much money we make, etc. - are all things that can go away in an instant. We have absolutely no control over them, because at the end of the day they are outside of ourselves. And so, what do we really value? Let's take

A look at just that question, by naming them out loud. Try it yourself....

Love...

Charity...

Compassion...

Passion...

Joy...

A loved one's voice...

Truth....

And on, and on, and on.

In other words, all things that you cannot touch. Each and every one lies within you, but rests more in an overwhelming feeling that you have about the "it" in question, and not at all something concrete, and manmade, that you can touch and feel. And so, there, right there, is the confirmation of the presence of something larger and more powerful than man ever was, nor will be. I call Him God. You can call him whatever you like. He does not have a self esteem problem (smile). And then you have those that believe, but judge. I love these conversations the most, but my hero Ambassador Andrew Young probably said it best when he told me a couple weeks ago, "you know John, we all need to learn to love others that sin different than we do." Wow - so very powerful, and true. We are all sinners, all of us. And we must all be careful not to start throwing rocks in a glass house; for we may actually end up hitting ourselves in the process. Or as someone else told me, when you point a finger at someone else, you simultaneously point four fingers back at yourself. Hello. Yes, we are all sinners, and a saint is a sinner that god up. Maybe we all need to spend a bit more time "getting up" in our own lives, and less time judging others who "sin different than we do." The message: tolerance, acceptance, and surrender (to God's will). And if we are really good, we will evolve like another one of my heroes and mentors, Reverend Dr. Cecil "Chip" Murray, former pastor of First A.M.E. Church, who once told me to "decrease me and increase others." I like that. A worthy goal for us all.

You never know where you are going to find your blessings. I find one of mine over the Atlantic Ocean, more than 30,000 feet above ground. Whenever you don't expect it, expect it (smile).

Onward, with HOPE

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