In the Seat Next to You

A few years back, a woman named Patty Ris was enjoying a meal at the assisted living center where she lived when she began to choke on a piece of food. The gentleman sitting beside her was a retired physician, so he knew exactly what to do to help. Immediately he stood her up, wrapped his arms around her mid-section and, after a few upward thrusts with his fists, the food became dislodged.

It’s no surprise, really, that the man was so adept at performing the procedure that saved the woman’s life. After all, this wasn’t just any retired physician. It was renowned chest surgeon, Dr. Henry Heimlich…yes, that Dr. Heimlich.

After the incident, Patty wrote Dr. Heimlich a thank you note that read, in part, “God put me in this seat next to you.”  

I’ve learned that the people in our lives, while often there for just a season, are usually there for a reason. Take a moment to think about the people whom God has at your “table” right now. Some of them may be desperately in need of help, and with your unique combination of gifts, wisdom, and experience, you are the one meant to do the helping. Others may have just the things you need for the struggles you are facing. Some of the people at your “dinner table” are there for you to learn something from. Others need to learn something from you.

So, don’t be so quick to dismiss the person sitting next to you on the plane, or your hairdresser, or your child’s teacher, or the waitress delivering your hamburger, as just random people who happen to cross your path. Maybe they are. Or, maybe they are part of a much bigger plan God is working out. And, just maybe, they were meant to save your life.


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