40 years ago today, I boarded an airplane in Fresno, Calif., with $15 in my wallet and no credit cards. I had spent my junior-year J-Term with my family in Pixley, Calif., and worked at Pixley Foodmart, which was my summer job throughout college. Now it was time to return to Huntington College.
I didn’t know anything was wrong until I arrived in Denver. My flight to Chicago had been cancelled…as had just about every other flight to the East. They tried rerouting me through various airports, including Atlanta, but nothing worked. Every airport in the Midwest and East was shut down with the Blizzard of ’78.
In baggage claim there in Denver, I noticed a woman with her adult-age son, who was mentally challenged and kind of starting to freak out over the chaos in the terminal. She was trying to comfort him while looking for their bags, and not doing either well. I offered to help. She looked in my face for a few seconds and then said, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” It was amazing.
They were returning from a visit in California to their farm in Illinois. I took care of their bags, got us vouchers for hotel rooms, took them to breakfast the next morning (more vouchers), accompanied them back to the airport, secured flights for them, and saw them depart for Chicago. Never saw them again, but we had some wonderful discussions about faith. Her son, despite his disabilities, had a childlike and totally enviable faith in Christ. He inspired and humbled me. I’ll never forget him.
The airline had no idea where my luggage was. Nevertheless, I made it to Chicago later that day, and in the early morning hours, took a near-empty 747 to Detroit–ascend to altitude, and immediately descend. I spent that entire day in Detroit, sleeping on the floor and eating hardly anything. That evening, three days after leaving California, a plane took me to Fort Wayne, flying low the entire way. It was a beautiful flight. Snow covered everything.
When I reached Fort Wayne, my luggage was waiting for me. I wondered if I would ever see my bags again. How in the world did they arrive before I did?