The airport is quiet at night. Parking is easy, the lines are short, the carousels almost empty, the runways lit by the occasional flight coming or going.
We gather at carousel 13, committee members who have worked for months and others who just want to be there because….
One scurries around with his laptop filming background shots; another takes pictures on her phone of the balloons, the baskets of fruit and nuts, the little group talking quietly.
We are waiting for a flight to arrive from Chicago which has also stopped in London and originated in Uganda. It’s 10:30 at night. There are signs which say “welcome” in several languages. One person has brought flowers, another a soccer ball. The group is excited but anxious….
“I hope the flight’s not late.”
“Do you think the balloons might scare them?”
“A refuge camp for fourteen years? How can anyone keep their spirit from breaking?”
“Do we have an interpreter here? Anyone from the Council of Churches. Geez, I hope so…”
“Do they speak any English at all?”
“Can we touch them? Hug them? Is that appropriate?”
“Roseanne, I thought you had your retirement party tonight…”
“I did that. Now I’m doing this.”
And then, coming down the escalator is a dark-skinned family escorted by an airport employee. And the sun breaks through….
They are beautiful. Shining faces, apprehensive but eager. They are wearing parkas and winter jackets (they must have heard it’s cold here!). They look healthy and exude a sense of well-being. They are dignified, smiling.
We keep a respectful distance to let the interpreter do his work. And then we give them the gifts and shake their hands and greet them. Welcome, welcome, we are so happy you are here….
Two beautiful little girls and a boy with open faces, smiling, the girls speaking some cautious English. They all exude a confidence that was perhaps not expected.
“Remember our job is to support them, not adopt them,” reminds one of the committee chairs.
Because we all do …. want to adopt them.
Someone escorts the little girls to the bathroom. They go with Joan with no problem, their little hands reaching up to take hers. She smiles down at them and soon they are all laughing. The trust is palpable.
Roger kneels down and offers the little boy an orange, which he accepts, slice by slice. Later Don kicks the soccer ball back and forth with the little guy.
We worry if they will be okay in their apartment. “Someone’s going with them, right? To show them around?”
What a privilege this is. Maybe this is why Jesus makes such a big deal out of reaching out to the other. It seems to brings each of us in touch with our better nature, our best self, the person we want to be all the time.
It was a holy night indeed as the travelers arrived after their long journey, and there was a place prepared for them. Gifts were given, and there was joy to the world, along with the new beginning that always comes from love….