Saturday, August 8, 2009

Not By Chance

Right after the heroic and safe crash landing of US Air Flight 1549 I wanted to write an article about why people end up having experiences like that. I jotted some notes and left it for later. I guess today is the “later” I was waiting for, so here it is.

For most of my life there has been an aspect of my personal philosophy that has stood out. Somewhere along the line I developed the belief that there are no coincidences. Nothing happens by chance. There is no happenstance and there are—now brace yourself—no innocent bystanders!

Now that I have your attention, I hope you will read on to find out how I came to this belief and perhaps you will consider it for your own personal philosophy.

We have all heard and read the story about US Air Flight 1549 that crashed into the Hudson River in New York City with not one fatality. We have seen the heroic story of Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, the captain of that fateful flight. There is no question that it was a miracle flight with “miracle workers” on board. Did you also see the story of the young man who was supposed to be on that flight, but changed his plans? One may ask, “Why did he decide to change his plans? Why wasn’t he on that flight?” We also wonder why everyone on that flight survived. We do not know the specific answer to those questions, but we do know that for every disaster that occurs there seems to always be someone who avoids it in some way.

On June 30, 1956 a United Airlines plane and a Trans World Airlines plane met in a mid-air collision when over the Grand Canyon in Arizona, resulting in the crash of both planes and 128 fatalities. In terms of loss of life, it was at the time the worst aviation disaster in history, and would be a catalyst for sweeping changes in the regulation of flight operations over the USA. At the time I was preparing to host the International Youth of Unity Conference with over 350 teen attendees. One of the young men arrived at the conference to tell us that he was supposed to be on that flight. At the last minute he discovered the flight was delayed a half hour and he could take another flight though it would arrive at Kansas City later than his original flight. We all asked him why he would take a flight that meant he would arrive later than he originally planned. He offered no special insight to answer the question.

This young teen later entered Unity Seminary and became a successful minister and a long-time friend. I particularly remember discussing this event with him. We were “positive thinking” persons and naturally took the position that he was somehow guided to avoid that flight. That his life took this different course was not due to any obvious outer reasons. Yet how can we know whose life, besides his own, was touched by his ministry. Could this have been the reason he was not on the doomed flight?

A friend shared the story of Gerry McNamara who was on USA flight 1549. You can find the story in several places on line as well as this one:;read=140532.

I was particularly impressed with the ending of his story that follows.

There is a great deal to be learned including: Why has this happened to me? Why have I survived and what am I supposed to do with this gift? For me, the answers to these questions and more will come over time, but already I find myself being more patient and forgiving, less critical and judgmental.

For now I have 4 lessons I would like to share:

1. Cherish your families as never before and go to great lengths to keep your promises.
2. Be thankful and grateful for everything you have and don't
worry about the things you don't have.
3. Keep in shape. You never know when you'll be called upon to
save your own life, or help someone else save theirs.
4. When you fly, wear practical clothing. You never know when
you'll end up in an emergency or on an icy wing in flip flops and
pajamas and of absolutely no use to yourself or anyone else.

There is power in our lives that somehow guides us beyond our own limited understanding. As we seek to understand that presence and power, I am convinced we will always be in the right place at the right time and for the right reasons.

1 comment:

Elaine said...

The four lessons will be very valueable for me to keep learning. I will keep the words-brace myself for all uncertainties.