Unexpected blessings

Ever have days where you just don’t see your faith, so it’s put right in front of you? Well, apparently I’m hanging out in those days because a few blessings have been so big that I can’t shut up about them. I talk about a lot of things all the time, but faith isn’t really one of them.

Two weeks ago I headed to Washington, D.C. with Habitat on the Hill to advocate Congressional members about decent, affordable housing. I was lucky to go with 32 of our youth participants and two wonderful co-workers. It was a great trip, better than the year before, and making me miss D.C. more everyday. But here’s the story of how the trip got started. It ran in our company’s internal newsletter last week.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — By the time I squished my love handles between the plastic armrests, I knew this was going to go down as one of the worst flights ever.

Sweat beaded on my upper lip and hairline as I tried to cool down from the embarrassing last hour.

The trouble had begun in the security line. Before I could get my shoes back on, my backpack had been confiscated. “Laser pointer?” a security guard asked as he dug through the notebooks and luggage tags I had packed for the youth guests at our Habitat on the Hill conference. “Nope, just stuff I crammed in from the office.” Unfortunately, that “stuff ” included a baton that I had shoved in the backpack months ago in case I needed protection after a late night at the office. As far as security was concerned, I was a weapon-sneaker-inner. They banished my baton to a cardboard box, made a copy of my driver’s license and let me go. But I can’t stop wondering where my picture might turn up. I am now on a list.

Next came boarding the flight. My carry-on would not cooperate with the overhead bin. “These bins are smaller than the ones on most planes,” a flight attendant said in her most polite, yet slightly annoyed, tone. At least she wasn’t gritting her teeth. Maybe I would still get pretzels. After I had unpacked and repacked in the exit row, a stranger helped me cram the suitcase into the bin. I tucked the clothes I had taken out of the suitcase into a Delta bag beneath the seat and pulled out my phone and headphones. I was ready to forget this experience.As we waited, two flight attendants sat in the row across from me and began chatting up the people around them. Turns out the mustachioed Richard Neal Ray wasn’t the bully I thought he could be. He asked where I was headed in D.C., and like a pro, I said, “To Habitat on the Hill, to advocate for affordable housing.” He responded with a smile, an “oooh” and a little seal-like handclap. “I just love Habitat,” he said. “I’ve done every build possible with Delta, and I’ve even gone on a few international trips. (Delta) even told me I need to hold off on signing up for trips so others can get the experience.” We chatted about my upcoming Global Village trip to Malaysia and our favorite jobs on the work site. (He’s fond of roofing.)

During drink service, Richard announced that the savings from recycling cups and cans would go to Habitat, and he wished us luck in D.C. As he swept down the aisle one last time, he dropped something green in my twisted mustard yellow scarf. I looked down and saw a $20 bill staring at me. Nope, two $20s. What?!

“I can’t accept this,” I said. “Yes, you will!” he said. “I fundraise all the time. I know how difficult it can be. You’ll put it to good use.”

He sashayed away before I could protest. I tucked the cash into my wallet and whispered a quiet “thank you” to God. Then I started brainstorming the best way to let Richard know I really appreciated his generosity in donating to my GV trip.

As we filed off the plane, I passed my business card to Richard, gave him a tight squeeze and told him I couldn’t wait to share our Malaysian partner family’s story with him.I also couldn’t wait to share the story of his kindness with my family and colleagues. In fact, I haven’t shut up about his awesome random act since I arrived at Habitat on the Hill.

Richard didn’t just donate $40. He turned a bad day into a good one. He listened and fulfilled an unspoken need. That’s the thing about giving. Even the smallest gifts have a ripple effect.

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You’d think the story would end there, right? Well, God was looking out for me again four days later. I was taking the last train from Chinatown to Crystal City on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. After lugging around notebooks, a backpack and laptop and numerous other things including a bulky coat all day, I assumed my regular checklist for walking around was down to a science. When I walked off the train all I could think of was falling into bed without waking up my roomie. I wasn’t even a block from the Metro when I got a call from an unknown number. It was the girl who sat across from me. I’d left my wallet in the seat next to me. She found my business card, called and then stayed on the phone with me as she walked it to a guard. She ran through everything that was in it with me over the phone, told the guard in a nice voice that if it wasn’t there the next morning that she would come back and, well, she left it with a guard. 🙂 She got the names for each person working through shift changes before my 8 a.m. flight. By the next morning I’d already forgotten the station name. She even took my text and promptly replied. Everything was there. I could fly home.

I am a blessed gal indeed.

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