Delta Flight No. 1594

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Nov 20, 2010

"If I could give you a gift today, it would be the gift of perspective."
Dick Foth

On August 12, my day began very early in Springfield, MO. I had been in meetings for almost a week, but on that day I was heading home. I always enjoy travel, but the best day of any trip is the one that takes me home. 

I quickly got ready, packed my suitcase, checked out, and took my things to the car. After one final meeting at 9:45AM I was off to the airport. My plane to Atlanta was on schedule and everything looked normal in Atlanta. Little did I know what was ahead. 

The hour and 20 minute trip from Springfield to Atlanta went quickly, and after a brisk walk, I arrived at Gate B3 for my Philadelphia Flight. We boarded a few minutes early in order to try to get into Philadelphia before an impending storm. Everyone and everything was in place for our 4:15PM departure when the announcement came that there would be a delay: first 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, then a total of 55 minutes. 

The next announcement surprised all of us. Due to the unpredictable weather in Philadelphia, we were asked to de-board and wait for further instructions. The time was about 5:30 when all of us picked up our things, and in a few minutes we were all back in the terminal. 

I tried to email Evie to let her know of my delay but she had already left for the airport. You may wonder why I didn't call her on my cell phone. Unfortunately, I inadvertently packed it in my suitcase. Of all trips for me to do that, this was definitely not the one. 

I asked a fellow traveler to borrow a phone and before long I was talking to Evie. We set our strategies and did the only thing we could do...wait. 

6:00 departure was deferred to 6:30 and 6:30 was deferred to 6:55. At last the announcement was made for us to board. Everyone applauded. 

I also noticed people at their best and at their worst. Just about everyone responded as graciously as possible. We all knew our day had dramatically changed from what we expected or preferred, but we also knew there was nothing we could do about it. 

At 7:35 we pushed away from the gate. It was now exactly 14 hours and 5 minutes from the moment I first heard my alarm clock that morning. After a short taxi ride we stopped and the captain told us it would be 30 more minutes to takeoff. At last we were in the air for our one hour and 28-minute flight, and with the time it could take to get my luggage and the 45-minute drive from the airport, I could hardly get home by 11:00. 

By now you are perhaps wondering why I would walk you through a day that was filled with many less-than-preferred moments. Every time I found myself beginning to think negatively, my mind went to my friend Virgil Illum. 

Just a week ago, Virgil went into the hospital for routine gall bladder surgery. When the surgeon began to remove his gall bladder, to everyone's dismay they found malignant cancer everywhere, including throughout Virgil's liver. The prognosis was dark indeed. Huge challenges are ahead for Virgil and his family. 

I thought again and again during my long day of Virgil and how he would give anything to trade places with me. He wouldn't care about the long day. He wouldn't care about de-boarding the plane. He wouldn't care about thunderstorms or flight schedules or interruptions to an otherwise routine day. None of it would matter to him. It probably shouldn't matter to me, either. 

Delta Flight Number 1594 will be a trip I will not soon forget. But in view of Virgil Illum's challenge, I learned a very valuable lesson that day about what really matters. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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