The Value of One

November 29, 2012

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Our family recently returned to the United States for a furlough over the holiday season. Our trip from Cape Town to New York City went via Istanbul and was slated to take us about 34 hours from our home in South Africa to our family in Pennsylvania.

On a long trip with children, you do not want any delays. We eagerly anticipated getting here as soon as possible.

About 25 hours into our trip on the flight from Istanbul to New York, we saw a passenger get ill. The announcement was made asking if a doctor was on board. This happens somewhat often as I travel, so without too much worry; I dozed off.

Waking up later, I noticed the attendants still crowded around this man. My wife and I commented, “I hope they don’t turn this flight around.”

Within minutes, the TV screen tracking our flight showed a U-Turn of our plane in the middle of the Atlantic. We were heading back.

We flew 2 hours in the wrong direction to Dublin, Ireland where the passenger was off loaded. By the time refueling took place and his bag located among the hundreds of checked pieces, we had added another 90 minutes of delay. Finally we were on our way, but with the additional time our travel time was now nearing 40 hours.

We finally arrived with our family at 3:30 AM after nearly two days of travel.

While the delay was annoying, there were several things it showed me.

1. In this area, we still have a Basic Respect for Human Life.
It is true we are losing the belief all human life is made in the image of God and has value in our societies. However, in this situation, I found encouragement. World-wide, if a passenger is in trouble, airlines will turn the plane around. We were flying a carrier based in a country which does not have a Biblical world-view. Yet this decision was a simple one.

2. One Life is Valuable
Jesus said, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4)

It would be easy to get annoyed with this situation. Making a long trip, longer. Dealing with the kids in a pressurized toothpaste tube at 40,000 feet.

But what if…..

The person in trouble was my wife.
My child.
Or even me.

I know what I want the airline to choose, I want that plane to pull a U-turn no matter how much inconvenience it causes.

The man in trouble was someone’s son, likely the husband of a concerned wife, and maybe even the father of   children who need to grow up with him present.

I’m glad the airline was willing to make the hard call. Do For One what you wish would be done for you.

3. There is no sense getting upset about these things
I fly often. When the slightest inconvenience or unexpected event occurs, people get upset.

This was not a small detour, but I observed a markedly different atmosphere on the plane that day.

No one was complaining. When a life is at stake, people are willing to be inconvenienced.

The next time we face a temptation to lose our patience, remember to “Do For One.” Never forget the value of one. 

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 21 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God