My wife and I recently had a very frightening experience when our plane hit a wind shear and began rocking side to side just thirty seconds from landing. Our plane was rocking almost as much as the plane in the photo above. There was no way we could have landed safely given how much the plane was rocking, and so at the very last moment, the pilot aborted the landing, pulled the nose of the plane up, and avoided an almost certain disaster. The thousands of hours our pilot had spent training and flying prepared him for this crisis when he needed to make an extremely important decision on a moment’s notice. His preparedness and alertness saved us all from a likely disaster.
The whole incident happened so quickly that by the time we all realized the danger of what was going on, the danger was over. The pilot, who made the whole thing seem routine, then took us on to Atlantic City where we landed smoothly. We waited out the storm there until we could return safely to Philadelphia, our intended destination. We all shook the pilot’s hand as we deplaned, grateful to be alive. When it was my turn to greet the pilot, he shared with me that pilots prepare for countless hours for moments just like the sudden wind shear we had experienced, never knowing when their preparation and training will be put to use. I walked away thinking about the difference one person can make in our lives, especially when we are going through a time of sudden turmoil.
You and I will most likely never be responsible for flying a plane through a storm and getting hundreds of people to safety. At the same time, this is a great metaphor for what each of us does have the opportunity to do on a regular basis. We all know someone whose life has been hit by an unexpected wind shear, a storm that has come out of nowhere and rocked that person’s life. It might be the storm of a health crisis, a job loss, a relationship crisis, or any of the many challenges that are just part of life. Whether that person is a family member, friend, colleague, or neighbor, like the pilot of our airplane, we can make a difference in helping that person to get through their crisis to a place where they feel safe again.
What our pilot shared with us about the countless hours of ongoing preparation that allowed him to react with confidence to the crisis he faced got me to thinking how important preparation is for all of us. There are certain habits and disciplines we can practice in our lives on an ongoing basis that will prepare us for helping others, and for helping ourselves, when sudden storms arise. At the top of my list–and I would be interested in knowing what would be on your list–are the habits and disciplines of active listening, being patient, remaining a faithful friend, being loving, practicing forgiveness, being compassionate, acting in trustworthy ways, exercising self-control, and being generous.
Nurturing these disciplines on a daily basis will provide us with the training and preparation we need to be aware of and to respond to whatever challenges arise in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We do not get to choose when wind shears will occur, either in our own lives or others, but we do get to choose how emotionally and spiritually prepared we will be when they do occur. Our preparedness, just like that of our pilot on our recent flight to Philadelphia, can make all the difference in those scary life moments.