Before I wax poetic about all things Dominican Republic, let me tell you about two moments that set the tone for the trip.
On Tuesday, I was scheduled to fly from Harrisburg to Detroit to JFK to Santo Domingo. To some, this may sound like an unfortunate loop of travel, but to me, this was paradise. I love flying. I love airports. The more the merrier.
My affection for airports was proven as soon as I landed in Detroit. I was making my way to the gate for the second flight of the day and was on the moving walkway (because it makes me feel like I’m in a movie about the future) when I noticed a kid standing in front of me was having some trouble zipping up his coat. I came up next to him and asked if he needed help and he looked up at me with these big, grateful eyes and answered, “YES, yes I do!” So I started wrangling his zipper into working fashion when he – all of 7 or 8 years old – asked me what my name was. I told him my name was Beka and I learned that his was Kevin. I finished zipping up his coat as we reached the end of the walkway. He was so excited as he turned around and said, “Thank you, Beka! I love the airport! People here are so nice!”
As he walked away, I noticed that he had a severe limp. It grew worse as he picked up his pace to run, as best as he could, over to the gate where his family was waiting. He then began to tell them all about the great people he had met so far. Perhaps I caught them at a bad time, but they did not appear to mirror his enthusiasm.
I was like 2 hours into the trip at this point, and I was already moved to tears. Because Kevin became CURE to me.
CURE provides physical, emotional, and spiritual healing for kids with treatable disabilities like the orthopedic issues Kevin seemed to suffer from. And while I don’t know his story, I can assume that the reason he was so abundantly joyful about the kindness of strangers might be because the kindness of friends and family is harder to come by. All I did was zip up his coat. But maybe the act of extending an offer to help, acknowledging him and his value, meant something more.
That’s literally what CURE does: we acknowledge kids who would have otherwise been neglected because of cultural beliefs about disabilities. We heal their physical wounds, and in so doing, heal their (and the family’s) emotional and spiritual wounds by sharing the love of Jesus in a tangible way.
Kevin became the first CUREkid I met in real life. Even though he didn’t have surgery at one of our hospitals and we didn’t talk about Jesus, it was clear that love was exchanged in our interaction and he was encouraged because of it. And so was I! He did much more for me than I did for him.
The flight I was waiting for from Detroit to JFK ended up being delayed at the beginning and prolonged by tarmac issues at the end. I wasn’t concerned. I was on a plane! I was taking pictures of the sunset! It was so beautiful!
And then I checked the Delta app and realized they had already automatically rebooked my flight to Santo Domingo for the next morning because they assumed I wouldn’t be able to make my connecting flight in JFK that night.
And then I flew into competitive mode. Challenge accepted, Delta.
Ironically, “assertive” was one of the words I was told to keep in mind before we left for the trip. Likely because “assertive” is lying in a dusty pile alongside all of the other adjectives that I do not naturally embody. However, assertive is exactly what happened on that plane. Spurred on by encouragement from the lady behind me who told me I was being too nice, I busted my way off the plane and started running through Terminal 2 to find my gate.
Which was in Terminal 4. A short bus ride away.
And so I sprinted. Literally. With half my body weight in camera gear and personal belongings strapped to me, I did my best Amazing Race impression. I stopped to ask directions in a manner that unfolded much like an episode from the show:
Me: “My flight leaves from Terminal 2 in 10 minutes – can you help me make it there?!”
Best airport employee ever, with an expression that made me feel like I was carrying someone’s organs in a cooler: “MA’AM, YOU HAVE TO HURRY! GATE 60! GO GO GO!!!”
I took his advice and bolted. Through Terminal 2, onto the bus, and into Terminal 4, where I arrived in perfect time to hear the final call for my flight – in English and Spanish, just for added effect. I ran to my gate at the other end of the terminal and made it there with boarding pass in hand, arms raised above my head
for oxygen in victory, and onto the flight with about a minute to spare.
It felt like the biggest win.
I collapsed into my seat with a huge smile on my face (aided in part by the huge gasps of air needed for my winterized-and-therefore-non-exercised lungs). It was such an everyday thing: people run through airports to catch flights all the time. But combined with meeting Kevin, it was the perfect start to the trip. I had a purpose to attach to a plan, and I had a fresh sense of confidence to take into achieving that plan.
Once again, He made not one mistake. The Lord set me up for the best start to one of the best weeks of my life.
And as soon as I can wrap words around slippery emotions, I’ll tell you all about it.