by Tom Wacaster
My first local work was in Tupelo, Oklahoma. The town had a population of just over 500, and likely this little community has not grown much in the past thirty years; in fact, it may very well have shrunk due to the by-pass that was constructed around the town some years back. Most of the folks in that part of the world grew up in Oklahoma, and many of them had never travelled more than a couple of hundred miles from home. The extent of their travels was to neighboring counties, with an occasional excursion to another state for a family visit. Consequently, social contacts were mostly with folks of their same dialect, same interests, and same cultural background as their own. Beyond the boarders of their small town and/or neighboring states is a world so “unlike” the small world in which they live.
My first experience with travel outside my own little “world” was when I left home to join the Coast Guard. Since that time my travels have taken me to places I never dreamed that I would go, or visit places the likes of which I have been to in the past twenty-five years or so. Air travel has introduced the globe traveler to what has come to be known as “air-travel-hubs.” These are the larger, centrally located cities in various parts of the world where major routes dump their travelers for connecting flights to remote areas not serviced by these major routes. One thing I have learned after dozens of trips to various parts of the world is that you can meet folks from virtually every walk of life at these major airport hubs. My recent trip took me through Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In fact, much of this article is being written as I sit in a chair awaiting my flight to DFW International Airport. On my way to India I landed in mid morning here at Dubai and barely had time to get to my gate before boarding and subsequent departure. My return trip on October 2nd landed me in Dubai at 11:00 p.m. My final leg home was not scheduled to leave until 3:00, so I had a little time to wander the corridors of Dubai International Airport. One would think that at 2:00 a.m. in the morning the halls would be empty and the shops closed; wrong! This international “hub” was as crowded as DFW at noon the day before Thanksgiving; perhaps even more. The shops were jammed with travelers who had more money than common sense. I have never understood why anyone would pay the prices charged in these airport shops. Some years ago I stepped into one of those airport “malls” just to get a glimpse at the prices. Perfume: $100 a bottle. Men’s Arrow shirt (one that you can buy at Sears for $25 or so) sold for $85.00. Why would anyone buy a suit in an international airport shop at a cost of three times what you could get one at Men’s Warehouse? Electronics, including laptops, cell phones, ipads and ipods—all were overpriced. I have concluded that if a merchant puts up a sign that reads “duty free” folks will somehow think they are getting a real bargain. But, that is the subject for another article.
With the time I had I thought I would get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks (not that I frequent Starbucks; I just don’t like their coffee that much). Before I left home someone had given me a gift card for Starbucks. When the clerk told me they did not take gift cards, and when I calculated the cost of a single cup of coffee in dollars rather than United Arab currency, I decided that $5 for a cup of coffee was just too much. So I purchased a bottle of water in a little shop, and sat down and observed the people around me. There were, literally, people from every walk of life. Across the table to my left I noticed two men who looked like they must have grown up in San Francisco during the Hippie craze. Adjacent to my table I noticed a couple from some oriental country; Korea, Japan, or perhaps even Viet Nam. I saw the well dressed, and the not-so-well dressed. There were young; there were old. There were some very alert, and energetic; and there were others, like myself, who had been awake for almost 24 hours (or longer), and given the opportunity, could easily slip off into dream land at the blink of an eye. There were the sober; there were drunkards. There were the polite and the impolite; the friendly and the not so friendly. Yes, there were folks from every walk of life about me. Looking out into the corridor from where I sat, as far as one could see there were masses of people, all going somewhere or heading home from some far away destination. I have often found myself asking, “Were the Lord to come today, how many of these precious souls would be gathered with the saints to meet our Lord in the air? How many of them would enjoy the beauties of heaven, and the joy of hearing their Lord say to them, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joys prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” On the other hand, how many of these precious souls will never even hear the gospel message? How many of them, given the opportunity, would be interested in the least of hearing of what awaits all mankind when our Lord comes again? And even as I ask that question, I am cognizant of the answer.
Most of the people sitting around me would reach their destination within a few short hours; some perhaps in a day or so. But in the twinkling of an eye, as a tale that is told, every single one of those who are presently enjoying some snack as they await their connecting flight will eventually reach their eternal destiny as well. Heaven will be the home of the faithful; hell the eternal misery of the lost.
As each one now picks up their bags, and disposes of the trays, scraps, and sacks in the various dispensers about the food court, and begin moving toward their connecting flight one wonders what tomorrow will bring. I too, would soon be making my way to my gate to board my flight home. As I made my way to gate 32 I was reminded that people come from all walks of life. Our challenge is to walk along side and try to point the way to Jesus.