Several years ago I was on a four and a half hour, non-stop flight from Seattle, Washington, to Atlanta, Georgia. Flight delays, unexpected bad weather and changing airline crews can create unanticipated challenges on any trip. Therefore, I always try to fly non-stop between my destinations. I have learned that flights with additional connections usually create unexpected challenges.
About an hour into this particular flight, the Captain’s voice rang over the intercom. He asked if there was a physician or nurse on the plane. If so, he asked them to identify themselves by ringing the flight attendant call button above their seat. I listened carefully but heard no one ring their bell. I immediately began to wonder what was happening.
In a few minutes the Captain informed us that there was a medical emergency on board and asked again if there was a physician or a nurse who could help. When there was no response, we were told that we were going to make an emergency stop in Denver, Colorado. He apologized and told us that there would be a medical emergency team waiting to meet us at the gate and that we would probably only be delayed by about thirty minutes. Though it was necessary, we knew we would all be inconvenienced by the extra stop.
About half an hour later, we landed at Denver International Airport and the medical crew immediately came on board. However, everything took longer than had previously been expected. An elderly gentleman, about 85 years old, had suddenly taken ill. It was not clear whether he had experienced a stroke or heart attack.
Even after the gentleman was carried off of the plane, we still sat there for quite a while. The original “short” stop turned into nearly two hours of waiting. When we finally pushed back from the gate and were in the air, the pilot apologized profusely for the unavoidable delay. He said that since the stop had taken longer than expected, those passengers who needed to make connections in Atlanta would miss their flights but would automatically be booked on the next flight out. You could almost hear the moans and groans throughout the airplane of everyone who was being inconvenienced by the unexpected stop.
Then the pilot did one of the classiest things I have personally ever seen or heard anyone do. He spoke into the intercom and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I thought you might be interested in one bit of information. The elderly gentleman who was taken off the plane was a Marine in WWII. I am holding in my hand a paper copy of the Congressional Medal of Honor that was awarded to him and signed by President Harry Truman in 1945.” The pilot went on to say, “I realize that we have all been inconvenienced for a few hours today. However, in light of the fact that this gentleman was a war hero and was inconvenienced for four years of his life in order that we might experience the freedoms that we enjoy today, well… I thought you all should know.”
Immediately the airplane was filled with applause. Everyone was cheering and so pleased to know that the gentleman had been cared for in a way that was fitting and proper.
As we continued to fly, I thought to myself, “Isn’t that interesting? A few minutes earlier we were concerned that we were being inconvenienced for a couple of hours. Yet, this man’s entire life was interrupted and inconvenienced for over four years while he went and fought in a war to protect the freedoms and values that we love and hold dear in this country today.” I breathed a prayer for the gentleman and asked God to bless him for all he had done to help us experience freedom and our way of life.
I began to think about the times I feel “put out” because I am inconvenienced by a red light that lasts too long, or a grocery store check out line that is moving too slowly, or by having to stand in line for a few extra seconds while someone makes up their mind which food dish they want at the cafeteria. I felt ashamed! I promised myself that I would begin to view my “petty” inconveniences in light of real inconveniences that other people have faced and dealt with in their own personal lives.
When we finally landed and passengers were leaving, I deliberately waited so that I was the last person off the plane. I looked the Captain straight in the eye, stuck my hand out and quoted a line from the movie, Top Gun, “That was the gutsiest move I have ever seen anyone make!” He knew exactly where I was coming from when he smiled and said, “Thanks.”
This Tip is not meant to make anyone feel guilty, but, it is meant to cause us to put things into perspective, just like the Captain did so perfectly on that flight to Atlanta. The next time you are faced with some small inconvenience, take the time to reflect on the real inconveniences that others have faced in their lives. I believe it will help us all to be better people! I know it has for me!
Tip: Keep inconveniences in perspective.
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm