I recently had a flight out of Philadelphia canceled due to maintenance issues, and several of the passengers were irate about this development. As I relayed the situation to my wife, she gently scolded me and wisely explained that I should be thankful, because they had a maintenance issue and decided not to fly the plane.
For most of us, grumbling comes much more naturally than gratitude.
Antonis Mavropoulos was no different after he was told he couldn’t board flight 302 en route to Nairobi, Kenya. He was rushing from a connecting flight, only to see the final passengers boarding the plane and be denied entry at the gate. “I lost it for two minutes, when I arrived, the boarding was closed and I watched the last passengers in tunnel go in – I screamed to put me in but they didn’t allow it,” Mavropoulos explained.
Still stewing over his perceived misfortune – flight 302 went down, killing all 149 passengers and crew members on board. Everyone back at the airport, however, had no idea.
Mavropoulos’ anger was stoked again when security pulled him in for questioning. As he explained in a Facebook post, he wasn’t happy about it (emphasis mine):
On 10:50, as we joined the next flight, two security officers informed me that for security reasons that a senior officer will explain to me, they will not allow my boarding. In my intense protests they left no margin of discussion and led me to their superior, to the airport police department.
Little did he know, his entire outlook on life was about to be turned completely upside down, with just one simple phrase:
He told me gently not to protest and say thank you to God, because I am the only passenger who did not enter the flight et 302 which is missing. And that this was why they can’t let me go, until I determine who I am, because I didn’t get on the flight and everything. At First I thought he was lying, but his style left no margin of doubt.
I felt the ground lost under my feet, but I came back in 1-2 seconds because I thought something else would happen, some communication problem maybe. People were kind, they asked that they had to ask, they my elements and let me wait.
Life can change in the blink of an eye. We’re not guaranteed even the next second of our lives, let alone the next minute, hour or day.
How many of us, I wonder, are guilty of living life without a moment to moment gratitude? Gratitude for the air we breathe, the sweet smells of the world, the magnificent splendor of creation all around us. For our families, our friends, even our enemies and the trials and tribulations that help mold and grow us as individuals. How much sweeter life would be if we could embrace it as the gift that it is, rather than viewing it as a series of speedbumps and misfortunes slowing us down on our way to the land of contentment.
Perhaps you don’t struggle with this issue as much as I do, but what Ann Voskamp told Faithwire during one of her recent book launches really resonated with me.
“We spend too much of our lives in waiting rooms – thinking I need to get out of this place to get to that place,” Voskamp explained. “Where you are right now is where you can enter into the joy of the Lord and the presence of God. Where you are right now is where you can live cruciform. Everything else is a mirage.”
She’s exactly right – everything else is a mirage. The idea that we will be happy once we get to this place, or once we achieve this goal is a complete and total farce. It’s a mirage. It doesn’t exist. You will get to that place, and you will still be discontent.
These are the feelings that rushed through my veins as I read this account from Mr. Mavropoulos, who I hope is taking the advice of the police officer who told him to thank God he is alive. He has a very clear reason to do so – but for the rest of us, we have to battle through a fog of life’s troubles to remember each step is a gift from above.
Read through this account, mourn for those who are suffering loss, be thankful one was spared, and let this be a reminder to be grateful God has granted you another day on this earth to run the race to the finish line well.
Running to catch flight et 302 Addis Ababa – Nairobi, which crashed 6 minutes after taking off, I had my nerves because there was no one to help me go fast. I lost it for two minutes when I arrived. The boarding door was closed and I watched the last passengers in the tunnel go in — I screamed to put me on, but they didn’t allow it. In fact, I missed the flight because I didn’t check a suitcase (otherwise they would have waited for me 10-15 more minutes, because finding a loaded suitcase takes at least 40 minutes). Also, as I learned later, I missed it because I came out first and very quickly from the plane, and the connection ambassador who came to receive me couldn’t find me.
The airline employees, courteous, put me on the next flight that would leave at 11:20, they apologized for the inconvenience and took me to a nice lounge for the three hour wait.
At 10:50, as I boarded the next flight, two security officers informed me that for security reasons that a senior officer will explain to me, I would not be allowed to board my flight. In my heated protests they left no room for debate, and led me to their superior at the airport police station.
He told me gently not to protest and say thank you to God, because I am the only passenger who did not board flight ET 302, which is missing. And that this was the reason they can’t let me go until they verify who I am, because I didn’t get on the flight and all. At first, I thought he was lying, but his style left no room for doubt.
I felt the ground disappear under my feet, but I came back in 1-2 seconds because I thought something else must be going on, some communication problem maybe. People were kind, they asked what they had to ask, they checked my information and left me to wait.
They put me in a living room and they told me to wait there until further notice.
I was searching on the internet to find information on the flight. Friends from Nairobi informed me that 30 minutes after the expected time the flight had not landed and there was no information about its fate, and suddenly all the wifi at the airport was cut off.
Fortunately, there is still texting. From a close friend I learned that the flight crashed just after it took off and that the report was coming in to the Greek media.
Then I realized that I must immediately contact my own people and tell them that I was not onboard — because of a couple of small, random circumstances I missed the flight — the moment I had that thought I collapsed. Right in that moment I realized exactly how lucky I was.
I wrote this message to manage my shock. I’m posting it because I want to tell everyone that the invisible and impenetrable strands fortune, the out-of-plan circumstances knit the web in which our life is caught. There are millions of small threads we almost never feel – but one break is enough to melt the entire web instantly.
Really, this is the first time I’m so glad to write a post and I’m grateful to be alive and to have so many friends who make me feel loved. Kisses to all and a warm thank you for your touching support. Special citation reference for early surgery and support to Jeroen Par Dijk Panos Fragiadakis Haris Kamariotakis and a big sorry to my family for the shock they’ve been in.
Maybe not too old to rock n roll – but certainly too young to die…
Sunday 10/3/2019, 13:00 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
(the post went up from Nairobi to which I finally arrived)
10 ΜΑΡΤΙΟΥ 2019 – Η ΤΥΧΕΡΗ ΜΟΥ ΜΕΡΑΤρέχοντας να προλάβω την πτήση ΕΤ 302 Αντίς Αμπέμπα – Ναϊρόμπι, που συνετρίβη 6…