Have You Been Diverted to Gander?

The tale-tell ding of an incoming text message followed by these words: DL 1100/Apr 15 from EWR is cancelled. You’re rebooked: DL 2805/Apr 16 at 6:00 a.m. Login to Delta.com to make flight changes. Well, there you have it – an extra day in New York City. We had just enjoyed a wonderful weekend in NYC so another day was like a little gift. Life throws a curve ball and we are prepared to make the most of it.

Around 3:00 a.m. on April 16th as we were waking to prepare for an early flight home, another tell-tale ding – DL 2805/Apr 16 from EWR is cancelled. You’re rebooked: DL 2805/Apr 17 at 6:00 am. Log in to Delta.com to make flight changes. Hmmm . . . another day didn’t feel quite like a gift. Now, we were starting to feel a little anxious about when we’d make it home. There are schedules and obligations that must me kept.

Ironically, the cancellations and rebookings fit neatly within an unexpected theme that was starting to emerge for the weekend. Handling life’s disappointments – small and large. (I’m starting to see a pattern here.)

First, let me back up for a second. This past weekend we were honored to be invited to NYC to join dear friends who are active with Team Fox and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Team Fox held its annual awards dinner. And, the Committee for Kickin’ Parkinson’s was honored for the 4th year in a row as one of the top 5 fundraisers in the nation for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Did I mention that the Kickin’ Parkinson’s team was formed less than ten years ago? That’s pretty amazing.

There was a group of ten of us and we started the weekend on Broadway at Come from Away, a musical retelling of the events that unfolded in Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001 as 38 planes were forced to land there when U.S. air space shut down. The airfield in Gander was quite important at various times in history. At one point, it was the largest airport in the world and even played a key role in the operations of Joint Forces during the Second World War. Following the war, Gander became a refueling stop for most transatlantic flights. With the advent of jet engines, refueling mid-flight became obsolete. Gander’s role in aviation diminished. However, the Air Traffic Control station remained crucial for directing flights travelling between the U.S. and Europe.

On 9/11, Gander was once again called into action. On that day – due to its location and ability to accommodate large aircraft – 38 planes with nearly 7,000 passengers and crew descended upon Gander, a town with a population of approximately 9,000 at the time. The story of how the town embraced their unexpected visitors is at once captivating and heartwarming. (Check out the book, The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede for more details.) In a nutshell (and without giving it all away), this is a story about the best of humanity in the worst of times.

After being inspired by the story of Gander, we participated in a roundtable luncheon to learn about the latest in research to defeat Parkinson’s disease. (Check out www.foxinsight.comto participate in an observational study to aid PD research.) And then, we headed to the awards dinner to honor those who worked so hard throughout the past year to raise funds for that research. Quite honestly, I was unprepared for the humbling and awe-inspiring stories shared by patients and their support teams. I felt small. My own struggles receded as I listened to the way others tackle their daily battles. Their dogged attitudes permeated the room and you couldn’t help but get some on you.

Jimmy Choi shared his journey from diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease through a downward spiral and then ultimately toward redemption. Choi became the first person with PD to compete on American Ninja Warrior. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – it is a competition where participants attempt to cross the most grueling obstacle courses that can be devised. The winners at regional events compete in the National Finals and it’s all televised on NBC. (Check your local listings.) Choi will compete in the Season 10 regionals in Indianapolis the weekend of April 29. His wife spoke of the effects of PD on those who support patients.

Another couple spoke of facing the fears of PD by climbing mountains – literally. The couple, a patient and his spouse, joined a Team Fox fundraising group to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Nothing like telling your emotional fears to take a hike while you climb a mountain.

This is your captain speaking. We will be delayed for mechanical issues.

Then, we met and spoke with a couple from Texas. The young man, now in his early 30’s, was diagnosed with PD when only 27 years-old. Nothing like just getting started in life to have devastating news rock your world.

Flight cancelled; you’re rebooked.

On Sunday, we spent three hours walking through the 9/11 Museum . . . and we could have stayed longer. The museum is a vast cavern of artifacts, including video and audio recordings, devoted to one of the single most horrific days in modern history.

Flight Life 1.0, you’re instructed to land in Gander – immediately.

Why are we captivated by all of these stories? For me, the answer is simple – the overwhelming hope that emerges from terrorist actions and terrorist diagnoses buoys me when times are tough. The Spirit shines brightest against the dark backdrop of evil, drowning out the din of despair. We are attracted to gritty individuals and their stories because  their energy recharges our own shattered souls. We need that – often more than we care to admit.

We’ve all been diverted to Gander at some point in our lives. You might be sitting on the tarmac right now. I know that I’ve been rerouted and rebooked more times than I care to count. Maybe we’ll never compete on American Ninja Warrior, but we can face life’s diversions and delays like warriors.

The voyage from tribulation to perseverance is often the toughest. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. (Lao Tzu). Take that first step. If you veer off course, take it again. Setbacks will come. Find a way to get back on course, even if it looks nothing like the one you left behind. Forge new paths when necessary. You never know where they might lead or who might follow.

The payoff of perseverance is transformation. Character is proven through perseverance and grit. A proven character sparks hope for oneself and those around you. Each little success builds on the next until you find yourself breathing again and eventually living again. Trials are opportunities to thrive.

It’s so easy for this theme of perseverance, character, and hope to be overshadowed by the futility that floods our daily newsfeeds. Often, hope is nothing more than white noise as we focus on the frenzy of daily “survival.” Sometimes our flights need to be cancelled and rebooked in order to refocus our attention on what matters. The collateral costs of cancellations are not inconsequential, but the lessons are invaluable. If we choose to persevere and to forge character, we will emerge hopeful.

Flight Life 2.0, you’ve been cleared for take-off.


2 thoughts on “Have You Been Diverted to Gander?

  • Since I began following your blog, I have begun the healing that I was unaware I needed. It’s been so many years, and I just made up my mind that God would heal me. My faith has embraced me through the years; but, once again, God has blessed me with you, healing those wounds that I buried and kept to myself. Thank you, and thank God for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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