Last week, Janet and her sister, Debbie, flew to Williamsburg, VA to meet their youngest sister, Nancy, for a sister’s week-end together. After a great time together, Janet and Deb were dropped off at the Richmond, VA airport for a mid-morning flight home this past Monday. Unfortunately, in an unrelated incident, an early morning inbound jet slid off the runway at O’Hare airport and caused a chain of events that resulted in more than 900 flights being cancelled at the airport throughout the day.
Throughout the day, the snow was falling in Chicago and in some places, more than 4 inches had accumulated by mid-afternoon. Janet and Debbie were delayed and unable to take off from Richmond because the pattern was full for jets trying to land in Chicago. Of course, it was a brutal day for them. Promises of imminent departure interspersed with new delay notices. In fact, the flights before them and after them were all cancelled.
Oddly, their flight on American Airlines was still scheduled to operate, but much later than originally scheduled. By mid afternoon, Janet and Deb were aware that they better start thinking about staying in the Richmond airport overnight. It was more than an hour back to Nancy’s home in Williamsburg and they didn’t want to chance missing the plane in the unlikely event that the jet would finally take-off.
To further complicate matters, Janet and I were to head home to Carmel after her flight landed at O’Hare. But with the snow, and the continuing delays, it was becoming apparent that we would be spending the night in the Windy City assuming they got back! After more than ten hours at the Richmond airport, Janet and Debbie received word that the American crew assigned to work the flight had timed out – worked their maximum hours for the day – and would not be able to board the flight back to Chicago.
However, at this point the guardian angels must have been working overtime to help the passengers who had so quietly waited to get home. The pilot and crew petitioned American to waive the restriction so they could get their passengers to O’Hare. After much back and forth with whoever makes those decisions, the gate attendant called the flight to board – the crew had won their petition with corporate and was ready to depart.
It was an incredible blessing for all involved. Janet had never witnessed such wonderful customer service from an airline before. They provided sandwiches, chips and drinks during the delay. New friendships were made as passengers shared where they were from, what brought them to Richmond and where they called home. Even Janet and Debbie, who are normally rather quiet, engaged in conversations that would not have happened otherwise.
A young family with three children was trying to get home, a young woman was trying to get back home as her father had died that morning and all her other chances for flights had been cancelled. A man from Britain struck up a conversation with them as well and all these personal interactions helped pass the time.
When the boarding announcement was made, Janet thought that it was too good to be true, as hopeful as she was… Suffice it to say that the folks from American were absolutely fabulous! Janet, Debbie and the other passengers were grateful beyond words. Not only did they get home Monday evening, but the spirit of appreciation for the sacrifice of the American crew certainly went above and beyond the norm.
Our verse for tonight is from the prophet Hosea and is dedicated to the wonderful attitude of the American crew. It has to do with basic human kindness. Hosea tells us, in Hosea 11:4, “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love…” That flight is something that Janet will never forget. She’s still talking about it tonight – the whole thing was almost surreal.
My encouragement tonight is that God loves it when we demonstrate brotherly and sisterly love to one another. And this week, a large corporation made a group of weary passengers very happy people – and they didn’t have to. Everyone would have understood if the crew didn’t want to work far beyond the end of their shift to accomplish a goal that they cared about.
My prayer is that, especially as we approach the holiday season, we will exhibit random acts of kindness to others. You never know what kind of day people are having and how much they may really need a kind word or act of kindness. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…