Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gate 16, San Antonio Airport

I had a great time in San Antonio with Tim Hoffman and his area fellowship, but the event of this past weekend took place as I was leaving the city. I got to the San Antonio Airport early, around 6:00 a.m. I was at Gate 16, doing work and reading the newspaper as I waited for United Flight 6253, when a well-dressed family of four showed up.

The younger child, a boy about four years old, was a special-needs child. This boy was a hug machine. He stood in the busy corridor, hugging anyone and everyone. He came over, hugged me, left a big glob of his doughnut on the leg of my pants, and then ran off to hug three or four other people. His mom and dad, of course, were a little embarrassed. They would chase him down and bring him back, only for him to run off to find other people to hug.

It wasn’t very long in a very crowded corridor before this enthusiastic hugger came across someone very unlike himself. A young man in his 20s, dressed in gang attire, came walking down the hallway, bobbing to the beat of the music he heard through a huge pair of headphones. He wore a Raiders jersey, a hat turned backwards, lots of tattoos, and several piercings; I wondered what would happen when this gang banger met the hug machine.

Sure enough, knowing no fear, the little boy ran up to the young man and gave him a big hug. I was watching with interest from five feet away, wondering what would happen. The gang banger got down on one knee, returned the boy’s big hug, and put his earphones the boy’s head. The two danced together for about thirty seconds, until the boy’s mother came to take him away.

Could it be that Christ wants us to love like that little boy? Unconstrained by biases, by the boxes adults often put people into, he treated everyone equally. Where I saw a bored businessman, an alert mother, or an unapproachable gang banger, he saw nothing but a person who needed love. He didn’t care how people dressed, what they looked like, or what their background was. Scripture says that we look at a person’s outside; God looks at his heart (I Samuel 16:7). When we look beyond an image, we will find someone who needs to be loved.

I learned a lot at Gate 16 of the San Antonio airport.


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