While flying to Michigan to speak to the gracious and talented emergency medicine residents in East Lansing, MI, I found myself sitting in the Detroit airport as my flight was delayed further and further. At one point, Delta told us that our originally scheduled 6 PM flight would be 8 PM. Then 10 PM. Then we were told it might well be 4 AM. We had an airplane, but dang it all, no crew!

Well, I’m rather used to this sort of thing over the years. Some readers may recall my family’s airline saga over a year ago in Dallas, when we were stranded by American Air’s safety recall. In fact, we had a blast together, but that’s not the point here.

Sitting in the concourse I reclined in the chair, and ultimately followed gravity to the floor, lying my head on the fleece jacket my wife so wisely encouraged me to bring.

But around me, at the check-in counter for our flight, I heard the ruckus. People were annoyed. One in particular was simply rude and loud. He was muttering profanity and ranting about his ticket, what the airline owed him, customer service and all the rest. And he did all of this while announcing on the phone that he was a university employee entitled to government rates. ‘This is ridiculous,’ he said over and over.

Fair enough, it was a real drag to sit in an airport when I could have been lying in a hotel bed. But the lady behind the counter didn’t tell the crew to take a vacation. She didn’t ground the plane. She didn’t make the schedule and she had no role in ending the forward momentum of the passengers from the flight.

I understand frustration and we all felt a little bit of it. But in the midst of it all, yelling, cursing and sarcasm contributed nothing to the dialogue or the situation.

Maybe it’s years in the emergency department. Sitting in that chair, or lying on that floor, I had a bottle of water, a sandwich to eat, a book to read and not a single patient to see. No one was bleeding, no one was dying, no one was rushing in with a seizing child. No ambulances were pulling up with work for me to do, and no one was arguing with me for drugs or work excuses. From my perspective, it was a winning situation!

But the more I thought about it, I realized that maybe God puts me, puts us as believers, in situations like this so that we may be islands of calm. It may not require that we speak, or even intervene, only that we be the persons who are gracious and kind, who speak no cruel or hateful words, who smile and say ‘thank you…are you OK?’ to the persons bearing the brunt of the public’s frustration.

The Apostle John said it well:

‘Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.’ 1 John 1:1011.

And that kind of love includes rolling with the situation for the sanity of all, and even being nice to the lady at the ticket counter in the middle of the night.

So, wherever you are, in whatever icky situation you may find yourself, try to show love. You may be no closer to your earthly destination; but heaven will be closer than ever.


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