By Pastor Jonathan S. Ferriol
I was writing and waiting for my flight to Baltimore at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York two weeks ago when a huge family (about 10 of them) of Burmese immigrants walked by and sat across where I was seated. They all looked like they’ve been through a lot. The children, 3 girls and 4 boys ranging between ages 6-10, looked scrawny and gaunt. The adults, 2 women and a man, appeared dazed, disheveled and unkempt. Not one of them spoke any English word. The petite lady who was accompanying them and representing the government agency sponsoring their migration to the United States told me that they were asylum seekers from Burma (presently called, Myanmar). “Sorry guys, but hey, you are here now in America and things would start looking up pretty soon!” I thought to myself, as I scanned each of their individual faces and appearance.
I went back writing my editorial piece, which was already taking me eternity to finish. My subject? Orthodoxy meets orthopraxy! (Serious stuff, huh?). It’s the connection of knowing what’s right and doing what’s right. I continued probing in my mind the subject and writing my thoughts down.
Then hunger. I fished out the banana in my bag which I bought at Starbucks and started peeling it off. I took my first bite. Uhhhmm! I love bananas. As I was halfway finishing this healthy snack, I noticed that one of the young Burmese boys was staring at me. He got that really hungry look and stare. I kind of dismissed him. “Kid, I’m halfway finishing this banana and there’s no way I could share a half-finished banana to you!” I said to myself. It seemed that made a lot of sense to me. But I realized that the boy and the rest of his family weren’t needing a good reason or wisdom from me. They needed compassion from me.
I stood up and sat next to the boy and gestured to him if he would like to eat. He looked at me with a skeptical look and sheepishly nodded. Her mom did the same. These people were hungry. Compassion was the only way to feed them. Ahh, feed them. I need to feed them. I looked around to check for my options. Starbucks? A bar and grill resto? Or Burger King? Hands down, I picked Burger King. Fast and easy, yet, crazily overpriced! (I always say that food prices in airports are like legalized stick-up!) But who says compassion is cheap? I ordered 10 Whopper combo meals. The eyes of the young lady behind the counter grew. “That’s a lot!” she remarked. Yes, that’s a lot but who says compassion needed to be always small?
I gave the two big bags of Burger King to the Chinese lady guide. “I hope they would like it!” I said with a smile. “You are so kind,” she replied. She later told me that it was the first time that these families would be eating a hamburger! As the lady started distributing the burger to each of them, I heard an announcement that there was a gate change for my Baltimore flight. I picked up my bags and walked off.
At the gate, as I waited for my flight to board, I realized that what I did was not only helpful but it was also personally rewarding. Finally, its orthodoxy meeting with orthopraxy!
By the way, the lady guide walked up to me again just before I was about to board and said to me, “They loved the burger but without the ketchup!” Oh well!