- Ayren Jackson-Cannady
My flight plan--find seat, sit in seat, buckle seat belt, close eyes, and fall asleep--was completely derailed on a recent work trip from Wilmington, N.C. to Atlanta, G.A.
It started off accordingly. As I shimmied through the aisle and came closer to my seat, I noticed an older lady with all gray roots, paper thin white skin, and a red leisure suit sitting in the window seat. We were in the south so I briefly wondered what her thoughts would be when she found out it was I--an African American woman with locs in my hair and a Tanahasi Coates book in my hands--that would be sitting next to her.
"Hello," she said in a drawl so thick that I was briefly transported to 18th century British Isles. Her smile was sweet and quivering.
"Hi, how are you?" I said out of habit, hoping her response would be the extent of our conversation.
"I'm okay. I don't really like flying though. Where are you headed?"
"Oh. Uhhhh...D.C." I didn't want to engage, but again being polite I said, "What about you?"
"Huh? Sorry. I can hardly hear on planes. What did you say?"
"Where are you going," I asked her again, just a bit louder.
"Home. I live in Peachtree City. It's a suburb of Atlanta."
"Cool," I said, opening my book and pulling out my headphones.
Of course, I neither read said book or put said headphones over my ears. Ms. Brownie (she told me it was a nickname for Bronwynn that her father gave her as a child) talked to me the entire trip. And, guess what? I'm glad she did.
Ms. Brownie told me about her town (a planned community that her family was one of the very first residents of in the 1950s and one of the only in the country that you can ride around in golf carts instead of actual cars). She told me about her grand-kids (there are 27 of them!). And, she told me about her husband. The love of her life.
"He died last year," she said, turning to look out the window at the clouds.
"You're a christian," she half asked, half proclaimed.
Still looking out the window at the clouds, she smiled.
I smiled, too, as sweet memories of my own grandparents who had both recently passed away, flooded over me. I was meant to sit in seat 22B.
The people God puts in our path--the people He wants to show himself through--might never look, sound or act like us. They might be a Samaritan woman at a well. They might be a despised tax collector named Zaccheus. They might be a little, old lady in a red leisure suit on a plane.