It was a fluke, but I ended up flying first-class to Haiti.
It was my first time ever in those cushy front-row seats, where flight attendants give you warm hand-towels, and where they tuck a linen napkin under your plate of chicken parmesan. The flight attendants make a person in first-class feel important. They stick close to you, and they always call you by name.
I swallowed hard at the irony. I nibbled on my chicken, and on my pita chips with hummus, just one hour before wheels touched down in the poorest country in the western Hemisphere.
I wanted to crawl right under my cushy seat. But I sat in it, because it made the heartache sting a little more. And isn’t that what I prayed for, for an extra bit of heartache? I chewed slowly, swallowed down another bite of my abundance.
I met the girl in the sundress a few hours later at the orphanage. She found me in the courtyard, where 50 children swirled like silk ribbons around us, and they dangled like Christmas ornaments off of the men in our group. The girls spun shiny circles around the ladies. I was holding a baby girl wearing a T-shirt screenprinted with two words: Chick Magnet.
But the one girl — I think her name is pronounced Josielyn — she came close to my side while I bounced that baby on my hip. She was about my daughter Lydia’s age.
She slid up by me, pressing into my side like she was mine, like she belonged. We couldn’t understand each other’s words, but I stroked her arm and held her close, and told her how beautiful she was. I wanted her to know how beautiful.
And then I began to sing. I sang Bible-school songs, and she knew all the words, and I rocked that baby, who clapped her hands along.
Josielyn asked my name. And she wouldn’t stop calling me by my name. And we made each other feel important, saying each other’s names over and over again like that, there in a courtyard lit up with love. And it was better than first-class, I tell you. Better than first class.
Sharing this brief story with you tonight before I head to bed. We left northwest Iowa en route to Haiti at 1:20 a.m. We are tucked in safely just a few blocks from the orphanage tonight.
And friends? Our deepest thanks for your kind prayers. I was overwhelmed when I read your messages this morning. You’re a first-class bunch, you know?
(No photos tonight, but perhaps tomorrow…)