forty thousand feet over the Atlantic. Iím five hours
out of Hamburg, Germany, and four hours from Atlanta.
Iím past the half way mark, and Iím going home!
that had not originally been the plan. Today I had been
scheduled to participate as an honored guest in
festivities associated with the annual gathering of an
international hunting dog association. As chairman of
the North American Chapter, I had been looking forward
to the events for months. Instead, I just want to get
home. I am restless and distracted. The minutes pass
only one or two at a time as I struggle to avoid
glancing at my watch. In desperation I force my head
back against the seat and I reflect on the past
Thursday, I had been late for the 7:30 am opening
ceremony that started the three-day meeting. The group
to which I was assigned had already left on their
forty-five minute drive. One of the remaining officials,
Mr. Schmidt-Koerby, suggested that if I could wait for
about thirty minutes, he would arrange for someone to
take me to the group. He was kind, but I knew that it
would be an imposition. I was impatient, and
embarrassed. If I drove very fast, perhaps I could catch
up with them by the time they arrived at their
destination and in so doing, save myself some
place is difficult to find, even for those who are
familiar with this country. Please wait and let one of
us take you. It will be just a short while."
have a copy of the map, a good sense of direction, and a
basic knowledge of German. Iím sure I can find it
without problems," I countered. As I sped away, I
indulged myself on my strong sense of independence.
"I have always been able to take care of myself," I
thought, "I really donít need anyoneís help."
then I got lost! I mean really lost. It was by accident
that stumbled onto the meeting place four and one
half-hours later. I was thoroughly embarrassed,
thoroughly depressed, and my self-confidence was
thoroughly shaken. For the next twenty-four hours, I
went over and over the questions: "What could I have
done differently? Where did I go wrong? Is it really
important for me to always be in control? Is the pride
that I take in striving to be totally independent really
an asset?" I was soon able to challenge the answers to
Early Friday afternoon I returned to my room to prepare
for a series of meetings scheduled that evening. To
while away the time, and to relax a bit, I indulged
myself in a little TVóCNN. To my horror, I watched the
replay of the tapes showing Hurricane Opal slam into the
northwest Florida coast and make a bee-line for my
hometown 150 miles inland. I needed to call home.
an hour of trying, by some miracle, I got through to my
wife on her cell phone. As a member of our city council,
she could give me all the details and it was worse than
I could have imagined. Hurricane force winds greater
than a hundred miles per hour, and spin off tornadoes
had devastated our community. There were injuries and
most streets were closed due to fallen trees and downed
power lines. On a more personal note, our two elderly
mothers were stranded, totally cut off from all means of
both access and communication. A fireman had volunteered
to walk into the area to make contact with them. They
were frightened and disoriented, but unhurt. They had
water, some canned food, and would somehow have to make
the best of a bad situation for another day or two, but
then they would need my help.
In addition, two large trees had crashed down on our
house and we had huge gaping holes in our roof. As if
that were not enough, there was another storm predicted
to hit our area on Sunday. Since everyone was busy with
similar problems, no one was available to assist my wife
with the details of protecting what we had left.
Suddenly, I had to get home!
called several airports; there was nothing available
until Tuesday. My stress level started to climb. I
finally found an agent who arranged for me fly out on
standby on the ten a.m. flight out of Hamburg the next
morning. The agent then stated: "We suggest you arrive
by seven-thirty a.m. to ensure no one else will be in
front of you. This flight is overbooked, and we cannot
guarantee you a place unless you are the first to
arrive. I understand this is an emergency, but thatís
the best I can do."
called the train station; the last train to Hamburg had
left for the evening. The next train would leave at six
a.m., but on Saturday no commuter trains are available.
I would have to take the train that stopped in every
little hamlet. It would take over two hours to get to
Hamburg and another hour to get to the airport. With
luck I would arrive at nine a.m. I might make the plane,
but I would never beat the other stand-bys. It was now
late in the day and the rental car places were closed.
Schmidt-Koerby watched me from across the dining room
where I was half-heartedly eating a bowl of soup and
trying to figure out what to do next. He knew of the
hurricane, and of my need to get home. He came over to
speak. "Have you been able to get a plane ticket to
leave tomorrow? Can you get to the airport on time? Is
there anything that I can do to help?" I thanked him for
his concern, I told him briefly of my plight, and
expressed my appreciation for the offer of assistance.
"There is not much anyone can do to help unless you know
of another train that will get me to the airport before
responsibilities this evening, and meetings to attend.
You will have much more to do if you will leave in the
morning," he said. "You should concern yourself with
what you can do. Please allow me to take away your
concern about getting to the airport. I will see that
you get there in time, you will not have to think of it
again." I raised my hand to protest, and to thank him
just the same, then I stopped. His look was one of
concern and sincerity. His offer seemed genuine. He
really wanted to help. I decided to take a hint from the
past few days. Besides, I really had no alternative, and
in that moment, as unnatural as it seemed, I heard
myself respond: "That is really very kind of you, and I
will take you up on your offer."
"Then it is settled, getting you to the airport is now
my concern. I will pick you up at six a.m. You will be
at the airport at seven-thirty, and I will arrive back
here just in time for my meeting! Do you think you can
moment, and for the first time since I could remember, I
was flooded with a sense of relief. Even my
responsibilities for the evening were carried out very
well and without distraction.
"It is not
a Maserati," he said as I climbed into his little car
early the next morning. "They donít make a diesel engine
for the Maserati. You see, I work for a diesel fuel and
home heating oil company, and I want to be loyal to the
company, so I drive a car powered by diesel fuel. But
donít worry, you can think of this car as a 'fuel oil'
Maserati. It will get us there in plenty of time."
walked away from the ticket counter with my ticket in
hand, I heard someone say to the ticket agent, "You were
holding a ticket for someone. I was told that if it had
not been picked up by 7:30, that I could have that
ticket. Iíd sure like to visit my girl friend in the
states this week end."
been picked up," I said under my breath.
Schmidt-Koerby winked at me and said "Thanks to my fuel
to you also, Mr. Schmidt-Koerby,, please accept my most
sincere thank you, both for the ride, AND for the
lesson!" In that moment, as I gazed into his eyes, I
realized that in accepting his gift of assistance I had
somehow given a gift back to him-- although I was at a
loss to explain how or why.
finally, God has found a way to teach me about
interdependence, and its "value added" benefits to all
concerned. At fifty-two years of age, I have taken
another growth step. Now, I can admit that I sometimes
need help, and I can accept it gratefully and without
guilt when it is offered. This new feeling has a strange
and alien quality about it, but even now, forty thousand
feet over the Atlantic, I can tell that it is "right".