First Week of Lent | Donna Gwaltney

Psalm 55
Deuteronomy 11:18-28
Hebrews 5:1-10
John 4:1-26

“Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”  (Hebrews 5:1 )

Many years ago we lived in South Florida. To save some money on a flight home to Missouri, I scheduled a flight from the Ft. Lauderdale airport instead of the more convenient West Palm Beach airport. The drive to Ft. Lauderdale took about an hour and Darrell dropped me off in plenty of time to catch my flight.

I was flying Southwest and, at the time, passengers had to line up to get a number which would determine the order of boarding. So when the flight attendant announced the giving out of numbers all the passengers dutifully lined up. I fell in line behind a young man dressed in what I would call “grunge” attire. His clothing was big and baggy and he had visible tattoos and dreadlocks. The entire time I was behind him in line I kept hoping he wouldn’t turn around and I would not have to talk to him. The young man in front of me would have been someone I pointed out to my kids thankful they would “not be like him.”

After receiving our boarding numbers, the only place to sit was right next to this young man. So being the polite Midwesterner that I am, I struck up a conversation with Mr. Grunge. I decided I’d rather have a few uncomfortable minutes of conversation with someone I didn’t know how to relate to than sit in silence staring at the other travelers. Besides, we’d be boarding soon and I could sit wherever I wanted on the plane.

I started with the obligatory, “Where you headed?” I learned this young man was going to visit his grandmother in St. Louis. Exactly where I was going. I learned he was Jewish, and he studying to be a Rabbi. Imagine my surprise when he showed me the book he was reading. It was a Hebrew Bible! Well, I got to thinking, “Maybe he isn’t so bad after all.” We shared some more about our families, then Mr. Grunge took off his jacket to show me his newest tattoo . . . a Star of David in honor of his grandmother. He then showed me the tattoo he got when he became an Eagle Scout!

Once we boarded the plane, Mr. Grunge and I sat next to each other continuing our conversation until we landed. We hugged and parted ways at the baggage claim. My sister came up just as Mr. Grunge was leaving. She immediately asked, “Who was that?!” I told her it was someone who challenged my idea of judging people by their looks.

So often we judge people by what they wear and not by who they are. I learned a valuable lesson on that flight. I hope I can continue to view people the way Jesus does and not by what they are wearing.

DONNA GWALTNEY
Senior HR Generalist

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