When my teenage son Josh and I arrived at the airport we had no seating assignment. I was told to wait until they had things “figured out.”
Usually this is bad news. For some reason I always wind up sitting in the back by the toilet with no fan or next to the crying baby. Last month I sat next to a sick guy and a new mom with a very vocal baby, but at least I wasn’t next to the toilet.
Sitting toward the front of the plane is good. You have room for your bags, you get refreshments first, and deplane quicker. On this plane first class was rows one through three, and incredibly, we were assigned seats in row four. After an hour in the air, the flight attendants served beverages, and as soon as the cart passed me I thought it would be a good time to unload the huge Coffee I had prior to boarding. I took off my seatbelt and looked towards the back of the plane, past 27 rows of passengers and the beverage cart realizing my situation looked grim. Then I looked forward and noticed the first class bathroom six feet in front of me that nobody had even used.
I made an executive decision and as soon as I stepped in the aisle and took one step toward the first class restroom the stewardess yelled, “Sir! Sir! That restroom is for first class passengers only; you will have to use the one in the back of the plane.” To say it was weird is an understatement, everyone was staring at me. Then she said, “I’m sorry, but you need to use the restroom in the back.” Headphones came off, eyes lifted from the pages of books, waiting for my reply. I didn’t say anything; I just hung my head in coach class shame while they stopped what they were doing, pushed the carts past me, and watched me walk past 27 rows of rolling eyes where I would have to wait in line to use the one restroom at the back of the aircraft.
The two passengers who used the bathroom before me must have had stomach issues. Maybe God was punishing me because I was proud to be sitting in the front. Maybe Satan orchestrated these events to depress me. Either way I could have used a clothespin.
On the way back to my seat, the stewardesses had to push the cart all the way to the front, as everyone snubbed me as I returned to my seat where I needed to hang my head in subdued silence and shame for the rest of the flight.
Being a white middle class male, I rarely feel discriminated against. Occasionally in Haiti I draw a few stares, but that’s more for being tall than for any other reason. This micro event gave me a micro taste of what it must feel like to be subjected to discrimination. And when I say micro, I mean micro. I can’t even fathom the feelings that African Americans had when they were told to sit in the back of the bus, or to use the Negro bathroom. I know that Hispanics and people of Middle Eastern decent face discrimination on a regular basis. On behalf of Jesus, all I can say is I’m sorry.
In Jesus day the Romans discriminated against the Jews. Both of them discriminated against the Samaritans yet Jesus didn’t, he reached out to a Samaritan woman. People with physical abnormalities were also discriminated against by society, but Jesus sought them out. He healed the sick and the lame, extending a loving hand to the marginalized.
It is your duty and responsibility as a caring person to fight against discrimination. Reach out to the marginal, care for the poor. Learn more about your immigrant neighbor.
As our culture becomes more mult-icultural, we need to be the person who demonstrates love with our hands, words, and actions. This is exactly what happened in the early church and it went viral. We need to be that kind of community, we need to be that kind of people.
By Pastor John Braland, the lead pastor at Freshwater Community Church in St. Bonifacius.