Living far from family requires a lot of traveling. Every few months we’re prepping for a major trip and shelling out money to do so. There’s no question for either of us as to whether we should or shouldn’t be going. We both want to go see our families — and badly! However, there’s something about the stress of traveling that brings out the worst in people… Chris and I usually spit-spat quite a bit while in route, and the rest of our fellow travelers seem to be just as tense. This story is about our most recent traveling adventure…
Flying to New York
A few of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to go to New York to visit Chris’ family. As luck would have it, our flight was delayed multiple times and the airline kept switching which gate our flight was departing from. Normally I really wouldn’t have cared, but being 33 weeks pregnant at the time, it was harder and took much more time for me to keep moving from terminal to terminal. It finally came time to board, but Chris and I were in the final boarding group; by the time we actually got on the plane, there was no overhead storage left. Somehow we were able to shove my bag and our two backpacks under our seats, without the crew members noticing… but it left us (especially Chris) feeling super-crowded.
The crew prepared for take-off, only to have the tower ground them because of weather. I don’t remember how much time we had to wait (maybe 40 minutes?), but it felt like an eternity because I had to keep my seat in the upright position while baby girl was digging into my ribs. On top of that, everyone kept trying to use the restroom and move about the cabin, but the flight attendants had their orders to keep everyone ready for take-off in case there was a break in the weather. For some reason, most passengers just didn’t care to listen and would get into arguments with the flight attendants right outside the bathroom — which was exactly where we happened to be sitting. It was a very tense situation. Eventually, we took off, had a relatively smooth flight and landed with no problems. We had smiling family waiting for us at the gate and all was well.
We spent the weekend celebrating– first with a baby shower for our daughter, then with a surprise 80th birthday party for Chris’ grandpa. It was a wonderful weekend that ended far too quickly.
Needless to say, we were both a little anxious about the flight home and hoped things wouldn’t be as complicated during our return trip.
Returning to Georgia
Our flight home was out of Newark at 8am. Since our parents had to work, they hired a car service to pick us up early in the morning and take us to the airport. As luck would have it, the driver did not arrive when he was supposed to and nobody could get a hold of him — not even the service he was working for! They sent over another driver, but by this time, we were about 30-40 minutes behind schedule (which is scary when you’re driving around NYC and catching a flight out of an international airport).
Thankfully, we arrived swiftly. Our driver had made up for about 20 minutes of lost time before we reached the terminal. Because of this, Chris and I were feeling more hopeful. We thought things were looking up for us… until we saw the line to Baggage Check. It was about 50-60 people long. Normally we don’t check our luggage, but because of the baby shower, we had two extra suitcases full of gifts to take back with us. They had to be checked, so we had to wait in line.
Though the airline employees were moving quickly, the line seemed to be standing still. Chris and I began to get nervous again. We knew we’d have time to make it through this line before our flight took off — but would we have time to make it through security? There was absolutely no way I could run through the airport. How were we going to make it?
In that moment, I realized there was absolutely nothing we could do about the situation. The outcome was totally out of our hands. All we could do was let the day unfold.
The Swap Moment
Instead of continuing to fret, I closed my eyes and focused on Our Lady. I whispered the following prayer and handing everything over to her:
Be with us on our journey,
For all your ways are beautiful,
And all your paths are peace. Amen”
I took my weaknesses — those things that I could control (my worrying) and those things I couldn’t (other people’s failures, the length of the lines, etc.) and imagined myself handing them over to Our Lady. She in turn, handed them to her Son. He gave her a bucket of grace, and she poured it all over us as we continued to stand in line waiting to check our bags. The line didn’t start moving immediately, but I felt much better and much more calm.
We finally made it to the front of the line and had no issues checking our bags. Then we hightailed it — moving as fast as I could — towards security. As we went around the corner we saw… no line. No line whatsoever. We set our things on the conveyor belt and walked straight through the metal detectors. Time was a little tight, so we grabbed out stuff and headed towards the gate which turned out to be much closer than either of us realized. Not only had we made it, we had made it in plenty of time for Chris to grab us some breakfast and coffee! Then, as soon as he returned with the grub, we were called to the desk to get new seating assignments.
“I’m sorry…” the gentleman said, “we had to move your seats. You were originally seated in an emergency exit row, but since she (me) would have a hard time helping if anything happened, we had to change your seats. You aren’t seated next to one another anymore, but one seat is directly behind the other.”
“No problem!” we both said, not really caring that we couldn’t sit next to each other. Chris and I were simply happy to have made it to our flight! A look of relief spread across the man’s face before he smiled in a distinctive manner. He must have been expecting that bit of news to upset us and was glad to not have to deal with disgruntled travelers.
As all airlines do, our crew started the boarding process by asking for passengers traveling with small children or passengers needing assistance to board first. Remembering how difficult it had been for us to board just days earlier (maneuvering through a crowded plane with a 7 ½ month-big-belly is no joke), so I decided to see if I qualified as someone who needed assistance. Turns out I did– and Chris and I got to board the plane first. We made it to our seats, only to discover that we had actually been upgraded to “comfort class” (one step below first class). Our seats were bigger, cushier, and had more leg room.
“That’s why the man smiled at us like he did.” Chris said, “He had probably expected us to complain about not sitting together and was holding the upgrade in his pocket as a card to play. Then, when we didn’t complain, he left it as a sweet surprise for us.”
And a sweet surprise it was…
The flight was smooth the whole way south, and we were some of the first passengers off the plane. Our checked bags were even the first ones to come down the conveyor belt at Baggage Claim. We didn’t have to wait at all. We walked straight to our car, paid for parking, and had an uneventful drive to our apartment. Chris and I were pretty much in awe the whole way home.
Transforming Power of Grace
Truly, from the moment I “swapped” while we were in line to check our bags, it was if every difficulty that we had experienced during the trip thus far was reversed.
- We went from massively-long lines, to no lines whatsoever.
- From boarding last, to boarding first.
- From being cramped and crowded to being comfy and cozy.
- From waiting on our luggage to having it delivered directly into our hands.
The grace was so tangible that day that there was nothing Chris and I could do but be grateful.
Sometimes, the only thing that changes during a “swap moment” is my attitude. I’m able to let go of my vices and act with the virtue instilled in me by my baptism and my efforts to strive for holiness. However sometimes (like in this case), God also sends me physical gifts. That day, it was as if ever bit of spiritual warfare was removed and we sailed smoothly all the way home. I know it was His generous response to my prayer for an increase of His grace.
Swapping always helps me, whether it’s in big or little ways. There is no doubt in my mind that God desires this sort of outlook from all of us — I mean, this truth is plainly spelled out in the Second Reading from this past Sunday:
“…My grace is sufficient for you…” ~ 2 Cor 12:19
Grace changes things– especially us. It’s all we need in this life. It’s all we need to make it through the week, through the day, through the moment. To paraphrase the Beatles, “grace is all you need.”
If you’ve never tried “swapping,” I invite you to give it a try sometime this week. Visualize the swap of your weakness for God’s grace… then wait to see what happens.
I look forward to hearing from you!