The trip home from Boston on the 14th, got off to a jarring start.  When I got up that morning, there were two voicemail messages from American Airlines(AA). A computerized woman’s voice said (twice) “This is American Airlines with a flight update. American Eagle (flight number) will now depart at 8:45 a.m.” “Wha?!?” I thought.  My flight isn’t scheduled to leave until 9:45—or so I thought.  To set the stage I have to tell you that I received this message at 7:20 a.m. “Yikes!”  I pulled out my travel folder digging through the extraneous stuff until I found my flight confirmation.  “Oh, no!” A traveler’s nightmare.  I’d checked the day before on my American Airlines App, but I’d looked at the O’Hare arrival time rather than the Boston departure time. My flight left at 8:00. Sigh.  I was toast.  Fortunately, I always pack the night before in case something comes up—though I usually prepare for a disaster not of my own making. 

I was able to check out and get to the airport in record time.  My cab driver was a very pleasant man.  “How are you this morning?” he asked.  I admitted that the dreary rainy weather reflected my own mood.  I explained my mistake.  He asked, “Do you have faith?”  It was a startling reaction to my concerns.  “Yes.” “Then you should believe it will be o.k. Go to the people at the desk.  Tell them what you have done.  They will help you, and you will get home just fine.”  Needless to say, while I appreciated his encouragement and optimism, I figured I’d be sitting in the airport all day as a standby trying to get home.  “Do you believe this?” “Umm, I want to.” “It will happen.  You will see.” About that time we were at the airport. He helped me with my bag, gave me a hug and drove off.

Using the self check kiosk, I sheepishly inserted my AA card, only to receive the response, “You are too late to check in for this flight.” It was 8:18 a.m. “Ok, here it comes,” I thought.  But to my surprise the next option was to check into a 10:40 flight either as standby (which was free) or a guaranteed seat for $50. “Whoa!”  I didn’t even have to share my sob story.  Problem solved.  I thought about that taxi driver and his message and smiled.  Believe or not, he was right.  I was able to make my original connection at O’Hare and arrived at XNA without any delay.  Reminder number one.

When I got on the plane in Boston, there was a toddler in my seat. “Is this your seat?” her mother asked.  “Yes.”  “My husband is in the row in front of us, would you mind trading?” It was the dreaded middle seat.  My first reaction was, “Ugh”, but then I thought about my good fortune that day, and the difference it would  make to this Mom who was having obvious difficultly wrangling her youngster. “Sure.”  “Oh, thank you.” “No problem.”  My seat mates turned out to be great, and the woman to my left who had the aisle seat, let me put my drink on her tray since I was working on my laptop.

For the foodies, I bought a toasted brie, apple and turkey sandwich at Brioche Doree.  Airport food notwithstanding, it was quite good.  The flight to XNA was uneventful and as predicted by my taxi driver, arrived on time.  I was in a bit of a hurry though because I’d committed to take the orientation for those who want to go participate in a communion church service with the women in Northwest Arkansas Community Correctional Center (NWACCC).  Pastor Clint, Jan Hanks, Bud Hanks and me (the crew from Good Shepherd) were to meet at 5:00 p.m., and I made it even though my plane landed at close to 4:00 p.m. 

We met at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and Sara Milford  explained the procedure.  We would meet Chaplain Tom who works at NWACCC.  He would escort us in.  We were to leave all non-necessary items, and would be required to sign in (of course) and go through a metal detector.  While we watched, Sara, Jason and Ben (Sorry I’ll have to update with last names) packed the baskets that would go with use.  They contained battery operated candles, bread, wine, and chalice, the day’s order of service and printouts of hymns, and a beautiful vase of fragrant lilies. We arrived at the jail around 5:30, and went through the procedures and were each given a clip on badge.   Pastor Kenneth Parks of St. Theodore’s Episcopal Church in Bella Vista met us there.  He would lead the worship that day.

I wish I could truly share with you what an amazing experience this was.  There were about 25 or so women who attended worship service and they were truly, in the moment.  We sang hymns, listened to the texts for the day, shared the peace (the only time touching is allowed in the facility—there were lots of very warm hugs), and shared communion.  What moved me, literally to tears, was the anointing of the women who were being released.  We all stood around them and Pastor Parks told the two women that they now had a new start, that we would pray for them and that we loved them.  All of us stood around them and either laid hands on them or someone who was touching them as Pastor Parks blessed, anointed and prayed over them.  It was extremely powerful, and beautiful.  This was the  second powerful reminder, and a moving and uplifting way to end the day.