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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Smiling Faces in the Boxes

I stood in a long line at Passport Control. I was sweating, partly because the hall was filled with many people standing in many lines waiting to enter Israel and partly because, despite my best efforts to control my rapidly beating heart, I was nervous. What if I was pulled out of line for questioning? What if I was asked questions I wasn't prepared for? What if I was denied entry and sent back to the U.S.? I wasn't so worried about being sent home. I was worried about being pulled out of line for questioning.

As I had prepared for this stint with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), I generally diverted my thoughts when they headed towards Passport Control. Last year I'd worried a lot - in the month before my arrival, two CPTers had been denied entry. What if it happened to me? It would have been personally devastating and another hit to the team (later in the year two more CPTers, both full-timers, were denied entry; those absences took a toll on team morale). As my departure date approached and people told me they'd pray for me, I asked them to instead pray for the person who'd decide if I'd enter Israel (and then Palestine) or go home. The young blond woman I met last year only asked a few questions and sent me on my way. I was so relieved.

This year I made the same request - pray for the person I'd stand in front of at Passport Control. As I stood sweating, many persons deep in line, the people in the boxes ahead of me didn't look too chipper.  I breathed deeply.  I brought to mind what I'd just been reading from Fr. Gregory Boyle's Tattoos on the Heart: that God is vast, that God loves us, that it is up to us to accept that love and to share it. So I started channeling the love I'd received from God, via many many people in the form of hugs, reassuring words, and the prayers that people were sending in the very moments I stood waiting. I sent it to the people in the boxes.

Then a young man told us we could move to the "Israeli Passport" lines. I moved to a much shorter line and noticed that here the air was not so thick. In the boxes in front of me, I saw three young, olive-skinned, dark-haired women. The first to catch my attention belonged to the line to my left.  Round-faced with short curly hair, she smile as she spoke animatedly to the people she quickly processed. She looked like she was talking to her friends. When I turned my attention to the slender woman with long curly hair in my box, I noted that she looked not like a person intoxicated by the power of controlling someone's fate, but rather like someone genuinely interested in the people standing before her. She, too, smiled easily and often.  The straight-haired woman to her right also looked as though she enjoyed what she was doing. I couldn't help smiling as I watched all three. I'd never been in a Passport Control area (in Israel or anywhere else) where the workers seemed so happy. I felt at ease. I continued to channel love towards them, but it seemed clear that their hearts were already buoyant with all sorts of goodness.

When it was my turn, I walked up to the box, received a smile and three easy questions. With each question, the young woman looked me in the eyes, not with suspicion and readiness to condemn that I've seen and heard other times I've gone through this process, but with genuine interest. Then she handed me my 3-month visa.  Before I left her, I told her how nice it was to see her and women on each side of her smiling.  "I'm happy!" she exclaimed.

Reflecting on this later, I wondered: Was it all those prayers I'd requested, directed at the young woman, but so strong they spilled over to her colleagues? Was it those prayers that helped fill their hearts with joy, with a welcoming spirit, with love? My answer can only be yes. As a person who believes in the power of prayer, who believes that our energy, positive or negative, affects the energy of others, I must believe that all that positive energy traveled thousands of miles and found their way into Passport Control yesterday.

And I am grateful.  Knowing how many prayers continue to be sent this way, I look forward to seeing how they manifest themselves in other places, in places and people with much greater need than Passport Control and me.  Please keep praying. My prayer is that I may be not a container for your prayers, but a conduit, letting every bit of goodness I receive cleanse my soul and flow through me to do the same for others.

Amen.

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