Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lost Luggage


A few years ago, I flew to Washington, D. C. for a conference.  As the plane approached Washington, the pilot informed us that a storm would delay our landing and, in the meantime, we would circle the airport until we were allowed to land. 

I could see that we were not the only plane in this predicament.  Behind us and in front of us were other planes, flying in one long circle over Reagan National Airport.  As we flew around and around, people began to curse under their breath and I heard a woman across the isle crying.  The pilot would occasionally announce that there was no change in the weather down below and we would continue to circle, which darkened the mood on the plane each time he made this announcement.

After we circled the airport for about an hour, the pilot cheerily announced that we were turning around and flying back to Charlotte, N. C. because we were nearly out of fuel.  The result of this bit of news caused a new, more energetic round of cursing and wailing and gnashing of teeth; as if the pilot and his crew were responsible for the weather.

After we landed in Charlotte and rolled to a stop, everyone jumped out of their seat at once in a race to grab their carry on bags, jostling one another to be the first off the plane.  But, more bad news awaited us at the baggage claim.  We were informed, after waiting for 30 minutes, that our luggage had successfully landed in Washington D. C. on a flight ahead of us.

Once this news spread, total chaos erupted.  People were cursing loudly, yelling at no one in particular or yelling directly at someone; people were running with their arms waiving wildly, eyes rolling, faces contorted.  There was a great deal of pushing and shoving; disrespect for other people was the rule.

But there was one exception; an island of peace in this sea of chaos.  A father had gathered his wife and two children together in a circle in the middle of this madness.  As I stood close by, I heard him say, “Let’s hold hands and pray.  Let’s thank God that we landed safely and that we have each other.  Let’s thank God for being with us on this flight and with us in this airport.”  And they stood together and prayed, as people all about them cursed and swirled in their anger and their confusion; an example of humility and respect in a crowd that had neither; a reflection of God’s love and peace in a world gone mad.

After I saw this and listened to their words of praise and thanks, the fact that my bags were in Washington and I was in Charlotte did not mean so much to me anymore.

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