Rite of Passage: Stranded
As I was celebrating Christmas with my family, I followed the news of the many people stranded by snowstorms. Image after image flashed by of families camped out at the airport, uncertain when they would find a flight out. I prayed for them with a unique advantage: I’ve been there.
In the early 1980s, I was scheduled to fly to Steamboat Springs, Colo. the day after Christmas. I was meeting a team of college students scheduled to go on a ski retreat. My itinerary called for me to fly from Kansas City to Denver, then on to Steamboat Springs.
When I landed in Denver, my next flight was delayed because of an approaching snowstorm. But the word “snowstorm” couldn’t begin to describe the blizzard we encountered. This was more like a snow tsunami. The delays moved from minutes to hours to days. All in all, I spent three days and two nights stranded in the Denver airport.
Yes, I looked like one of the people you saw on the news. I lay in the corner on my sleeping bag, trying to get a few hours of rest. In this setting, frustrations mount quickly. There’s no privacy. There’s no good place to clean up. And, as everyone knows, airport restaurants sell the world’s most expensive food. People began to run out of money, diapers and medicine. Finally, the National Guard arrived to help.
What I remember most, though, was one family’s service. The Dubois family of New Orleans consisted of Mom, Dad and three teenage children. They took one small section of the airport and made a huge difference. As irritation and boredom began to set in, they walked around and introduced themselves. They asked people where they came from and where they were going. After this, they took time to introduce the people they met to each other.
As folks began to share about themselves and their lives, an unusual bond developed. One lady was on her way home to visit her ailing father. Confined to a nursing home, he didn’t have long to live. Someone else chimed in and related a similar experience. The two discussed the difficulties of caring for an aging parent at long distance.
As people got to know each other, the Dubois family suggested a game of charades. Before long, this group of strangers was laughing and playing together. I don’t know how long the game lasted, but the hours flew by, and it seemed like no time before we were all getting sleepy. At this point, the Dubois family went to work again. This time, the teenagers stepped in to help parents with their children, playing with and supervising them so parents could go to the restroom or get food.
As one day turned into two, our group grew more open. Now, we discussed our hopes, dreams and ambitions. People started to share their belongings. My magazines and books became other peoples’ magazines and books. The second night, our newfound family held a sing-along. People told stories and shared jokes. Once again, the hours flew by, and it was time for sleep.
On Day Three, we awakened to excitement. People were beginning to catch flights to their various destinations. As family members learned they were cleared to board, our entire group went down to see them off. We laughed and cried while we watched our new brothers and sisters walk onto their planes.
Soon, the Dubois family and I were the only ones left. When it was their turn to leave, I walked them to the gate and tried to express my gratitude for the ways they’d blessed a group of stranded strangers. They seemed to think they’d done nothing significant. I knew better.
I’ve thought about this event many times. I’ve realized what we experienced in that airport was a microcosm of what we see in Acts 2 when the first church family was forming: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2: 44-46).
One family made a difference in the Denver airport. I believe God designed families to make a difference: in a community, in a school, in a city and even in a church.
When a family carries out the intention of their Creator, they make a difference. Lord, this New Year, let the difference begin . . . in me.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827)