But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins[a] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
She walked off the airplane with purpose, her determination undeterred. She was salvaging her life. She would succeed.
For the last year, her life had been crumbling. Before today, she stood alone, looking across what seemed to be a vast, untraversable chasm between her and the most important people in her life, her beloved children and handsome husband whom she loved with sad and desperate longing. Even when she held them close, she was exquisitely aware that she was betraying them and that they knew it.
She had bonded herself to a master, more demanding and draining than any human. It was an obsession, a compulsion which built an invisible but impenetrable wall between her and her beloveds. It sapped her strength, destroyed her health and clouded her mind.
The night before the trip, she rose up and began to take down that wall. Her mind cleared for an instant and she saw that she must take her fate into her own hands–all alone–if she were to cross the chasm back to her family.
“Yes, I will go to Cottonwood. I will do this for us, for you, my husband and for our beautiful family. I will go.”
Two-thirds of the trip was achieved. She was in Phoenix, ready to catch that final flight which would carry her to the beginnings of redemption.
She searched for the friends who would cheer her on and encourage her during the delicate pause in her pilgrimage to her destination. No sign. Never mind. She had momentum. She called her husband to assure him…and herself.
“I want to do this for us,” she told him, “I want to do this for our kids. I’m committed to this. I’m so happy.”
She had about a two hour layover before the connecting flight to Tulsa. After all, she could check in at the gate fifteen minutes before the flight according to the US Airways website. (If you are not checked in and waiting in the boarding area at least 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time, your reservation may be canceled and you will not be eligible for denied boarding compensation.)
“There’s a restaurant”, she said to herself, “And a bar….”
She paid her bill and picked up her box of food, checking her watch. She had plenty of time to make the gate before the 15 minute deadline.
Belying the information on the U.S. Airways website, the officious agent told her that she could go standby on the next flight.
“How can they do this?” she thought, “I was here 24 minutes before the flight. How can they represent that I have my seat until then, yet take it away? This is falling apart….”
Shakily, she called her husband to let him know. She began to wait. Would she make it aboard the 2:58 flight?
“I must make this work! My family and my life are at stake.”
She began to talk to passengers who were already checked on to the flight.
“Would you let me pay for your round trip ticket in return for your boarding pass?”
One gentleman said yes.
Triumphant, she returned to the desk where the officious agent presided.
“I can’t do that. It’s a security risk.”
Stunned, she stared at the stoic face of the agent. How could she be considered a security risk? She was an American! A productive citizen and loving wife and mother in distress. What was the agent seeing in her? Was this woman seeing a fellow woman who was suffering, or just a problem”
“You are a machine!” she screamed, “I am not a terrorist!”
The chasm between her and her family began to widen. Her husband and children began to disappear. An unbearable weight of loneliness began to press down.
“They are not letting me on! It’s all falling apart,” she cried.
She handed the cell phone to the agent.
It was no use. It was over. She stumbled out of her shoes, threw down her phone and possessions, and began to run down the concourse screaming and crying with despair. In agony, she bent over and then rose, words bursting from her pain.
“I am not a terrorist!”
She sees the burly men approach. Panic builds on panic. They close in. She can’t discern the words they speak in their neutral military tone. All she knows is that uncaring strangers are going to touch her.
After all, compassion and discernment are not in their job description. They were not her neighbors…