I often say to the children or even to friends as a humorous goodbye, “Pórtate bien!” Behave yourself!” I certainly said it to my children as they grew up.
We have a pretty clear idea of what that means when we say it to a child, but what does it mean when we say it to an adult? The Bible tells us in the letter to Colossians,
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” – Colossians 3:12
What does it look like to clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience? Every Saturday, for me, it looks like the baggage guys at the Tegucigalpa airport. These are the guys who look out for the teams as they arrive in baggage claim, “Amanda?” they ask to locate my team. So many team leaders are relieved when they see those friendly faces ready to help! They have guarded baggage, helped a team member through the airport when they travel back alone, helped me personally many times. I trust them and depend on them for so many things. It is wonderful to have my airport family watching over me and the people I care about.
They also care about each other. This is a competitive business for little money, yet they operate like a family. This includes my other friends, like Roberto, Alfredo, and Patricia who are older, disabled, and unable to work. They come to the airport looking for help. Recently, Roberto was in the hospital. Every week I gave some lempira to Alfredo or one of the baggage guys to give to Roberto. All these folks are poor and could have used the money to feed themselves and their families. Guess what? Roberto received the money I sent for him!
The experience that moved me the most is one in which I did not behave well. It was one of those Saturdays. I was delivering a team to the airport and then picking up a new team. The new team was coming on an early flight so I had little time to get one team settled before receiving the new one. I was rushed and distracted. As I left the parking lot, hurrying to meet the team vans, I passed my friend, Antony. Antony lost both of his legs and has terrible scars from a horrible electrical accident. As I raced by, he said, “My son needs a hat for school!” It was National Indigeneous Week and I knew exactly what he needed and why it was important. I raced on, not even stopping to say hi. (Not a Honduran way to behave.) After getting the outgoing team settled, I was hurrying downstairs to wait for the incoming team. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the perfect hat for Antony’s son. I asked the sales clerk how much it was. “$20.” “That’s too much. Nevermind,” I replied. (Note: What was wrong with me? Seriously? I was not clothed with compassion and kindness. I was wearing selfishness and self-absorption instead.) “It’s for the guy with no legs,” I added. Immediately she replied, “You can have it for 50% off.” She looked lovely in her compassion outfit. Sheepishly I bought the hat.
However, when I got downstairs I couldn’t see Antony. Erick, one of my baggage friends asked me what I was looking for. I explained and he told me Antony was across the very busy intersection. Looking at the time, and knowing how hard it is to cross streets on foot, I said, “I bought this hat for him but I don’t have time to walk over there.” Not even hestitating for a moment, Erick took the hat and said, “I’ll take it to him.” This occurred during prime time for baggage handlers. All the US airlines were arriving with large teams with tons of luggage, yet he left his post to help me and Antony!
When he returned, he found me and asked me to come to the door. “Look!” he said, pointing to a young man with one leg on crutches. “He has one leg! And he has a little boy!” Erick had seen this young man (disabled people have an extremely difficult time finding work in a country with NO safety net) and brought him back to the airport to find help! I smiled, told him my son also has one leg, and helped him.
I think this is a wonderful story up to this point. The guys are helping each other, looking out for their fellow man, even at their own expense. But that isn’t the best part of the story…
Two weeks later, I was back at the airport to meet a new team. 4 of the baggage guys rushed up to me, all talking at once. They were so excited to tell me this young man had been back and HAD A NEW LEG! As they were telling me this, they were showing me how well he was walking with HIS NEW LEG! Imagine, these guys struggle every day to earn enough to feed their families and yet they were celebrating this anonymous young man’s victory! A NEW LEG! “You should have seen him walk!”
That is how we should behave. Toss out our clothes of arrogance, selfishness, pride, judgment, and cold heartedness. Instead, put on the clothes my airport friends wear – compassion, humility, kindness, patience, gentleness and, one more thing, joy.
Let’s all get a new wardrobe and behave ourselves from now on!
Special Note: We all want people to work instead of depend on government or others. So do they. So, when you are at the airport, or at a restaurant, or at the grocery store, or anywhere else where people are trying to eke out a living, help them! A couple bucks for a baggage handler or a bagger won’t break your budget but will mean alot to them. It doesn’t matter if you can handle the suitcases/groceriers on your own, let them serve you! A larger tip for your servers won’t put a dent in your wallet but will mean a lot to them. Support their attempts to work and be self-sufficient!