Waiting for my flight, I found it hard not to stare; people watching is my guilty pleasure. The jumble didn’t seem to have anything in common other than their destination. A team of soccer players threw cards around in a circle. A cowboy propped his hat to cover his arms as he crossed his arms and rests his ankles on his suitcase. A toddler succumbs to a quick nap on his mother’s lap just a few feet away, while the man to my right flips pages in his Andrew Johnson biography, his suit jacket arms donning corduroy elbows.
I found it hard to catch my breath, surprised with this time to spare before the boarding call as I sat with my fellow travelers.
With a three-hour Sunday pit-stop on my way to San Antonio, I grabbed my phone. I found the listing of airport chapel services on Google: quick and easy. Locating the chapel on foot while dragging around my wheely suitcase and a laptop-filled backpack: not quick and not easy.
Looking at what seemed to be the eighth air-port map in my second terminal, I could feel it laughing at me like I was Harry Potter stuck on a moving staircase in search of the Room of Requirement (And yes, I’m just dorky enough to know that room name.)
A phone call to the number listed on Google led me to the realization that I had leave security. This was “you-should-turn-around-and-quit-this-craziness” moment #1. But, I walked on, surprised at how easily the stream churned me out. I prayed for an easy swim as I returned up-stream, through security, perhaps with a shorter line for my re-entry.
On the other side of all those bare-footed people with laptops flat in plastic bins, I saw the sign that said the magic words I’d been looking for: Mezzanine Level. It wasn’t a myth after all.
As the door opened, I could almost smell the hymnals, but my slow breath quickened back up as I realized that the glamorous Mezzanine Level was nothing more than a 10-foot cement hallway with “security only” signs at either end.
This was moment #2 as I started to think that all of this snooping around might land me on some no-fly list. Justification thoughts whispered, “That video link that I watched of Steven Colbert’s tribute to his late mother seemed pretty churchy this morning, right?”
As I took the elevator back down to the people-watchers buffet, another elevator glinted into view. The flowing font of the word “chapel” set this wall sign apart from all the others.
In the second half of the squirreled-away Mezzanine level, I slipped into the back row of the tiniest little service of 15 travelers, some in flight uniform, others with suitcases like me. We sang a canticle accappella, received communion, and passed the peace. I’d made it for only the last 10 minutes. Still, as I shook the priest’s hand on the way out (unsure if it was weird for a Lutheran to call him father) I smiled as I declined his invitation to the coffee reception. I thought it would take a miracle to get me through security in time for my flight.
As I turned the corner out of the elevator and noticed a shorter line for security with a sign that said something about “previously scanned passengers,” I wasn’t quite sure if the thoughts that slipped into my head were benign or a justification as I stood nonchalantly, trying to somehow prove my belonging.
As the boarding call wrestled the sleeping cow-boy awake and the mother slipped a wiggling toddler up to her shoulder to settle back in, I unfolded the little card from the priest; I’d wadded it in my pocket. The words slowed my mental pace, even as my feet moved, like an action movie clicked on mute. The prayer fit today, and perhaps any day we run ourselves ragged trying to get wherever it is that we’re going.
Lord, hear our prayer for today’s journey.
Bring us safely to our destination.
Accompany with your consolation and encouragement, those among us who make their journey in sorrow or with a sense of loss.
Give us patience and a deep spirit and a respect for all whom we will meet along the way.
May we continue the journey to You.
Glory be. Amen.