I was cleaning my room last week when I came across a necklace with a bead and a piece of jade attached to it. As I held it in my hand, I wondered, “What in the world is this doing here? Where did I get it?”
As I stared at this necklace, the memory finally hit me.
It was May of 2011.
I was sitting on a Delta Airlines flight at the Atlanta Georgia Airport. The final passengers were just boarding. It was an exciting time for me as I had just finished my two-year voluntary missionary service for my church in Georgia and South Carolina. I had not seen my family in two years.
As passengers boarded, I noticed some of them glance at my missionary nametag. I was used to people looking at my nametag with curiosity or displeasure. I was also used to people avoiding me because most knew missionaries would try to convert or talk about their church. I love talking about my church but I also know when it is time to back off. Unfortunately, some people would make hasty judgments about the nametag I was wearing due to lies about the church and wouldn’t bother getting to know me.
But a passenger on board saw past that. A middle aged woman with short brown hair who I’ll name Heather, sat next to me. I struck up a conversation with her. I learned that she had similar Christian values. For the entire flight to Las Vegas, we talked. We talked about multiple topics–family, religion, and the lowering of morals in our country. I explained to Heather how I was a volunteer missionary for my church and how I’d be seeing my family for the first time in two years that afternoon. I was shocked when Heather, someone I had just barely met, squealed in joy and exclaimed, “That is so exciting!” She started asking me questions about my family and what my future plans were. She told me, “You must be going crazy right now on this flight.”
Our flight landed in Las Vegas and we walked to baggage claim together still talking. We were just approaching the monorail in the airport when I spotted a risqué billboard outside. I immediately looked at the ground and joked, “They didn’t have those in Georgia.” Heather laughed and said, “Good for you.”
When we got off the monorail, Heather started digging through her bag. “I want to give you something,” she said. She took out a necklace with a bead and piece of jade attached to it. On the flight, we had talked about her many travels around the world. Smiling, she said, “I got this in the Sea of China and would like you to have it.” As Heather placed it in the palm of my hand, she told me, “I want to give this to you because you are special. You are a really good guy and you are going to change the world. I can tell.” I was extremely flattered and thanked her. I carefully put the necklace in my suit pocket.
We were just down the hallway from the escalators leading to baggage claim when Heather exclaimed, “Goodness, what are you still doing here? You have a family to reunite with. How come you aren’t running? Don’t worry about me. I can manage. GO, GO, GO!” With that, I was soon running full speed in my suit, suitcase in tow. Less than a minute later, there was my family at the bottom of the escalator, happily waiting for me. As I hugged everyone, I caught a glimpse of Heather walking past. She gave me a big smile. That was the last time I saw her.
When I unearthed this necklace I was having conflicting thoughts. At the time, I’d been treated poorly by some people and feeling down on myself. I came across that necklace and remembered that random passenger. The memory instantly made me feel better about myself and reminded me of my full potential. Who would have thought a simple jade necklace could bring such peace at such a time? I wish I’d caught Heather’s actual name so I could personally thank her.
What on earth does a jade necklace have to do with you? Remember the potential your actions can have on others, even years beyond that interaction. You don’t have to give out gifts on flights but you can, in one way or another, give a gift of caring and love.