Two Weddings and a Flight

I had two weddings at which to officiate on August 23, 1995, the day my son got married, and his was the second. My wife and I hosted the rehearsal dinner on Friday night, the day before the wedding,  in Nashville, Tennessee. Then I flew back early Saturday morning to Cincinnati to perform a wedding at the church where I preach. The wedding was at noon and went off without a hitch.

I was to catch a 2:30 EDT flight back to Nashville to arrive there at 2:30 CDT for 6:00 pictures and the 7:30 wedding. I got to the airport with a ride from a friend who was at the noon wedding. The schedule showed the plane on time, so I had a leisurely lunch and went to the Comair counter.

There the ticket agent greeted me cheerfully with this statement:  “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the plane is on the ground. The bad news is that the engine has been taken apart because of a mechanical problem. The flight is delayed and I don’t know when it will depart.”

I said, “That is not acceptable because I am officiating at my son’s wedding in six hours. I have to get to Nashville quickly.”

His supervisor overhead the conversation and left her line of passengers and rushed to the next counter to check on the status of the plane and to find a definite time when the plane would depart. The information was not available, she told me. I then said, “Can I charter a plane?  I have to get to Nashville now.”

She said, “Let me check.”  She made a phone call and then told me of an office to go to nearby and a phone number to call. I ran to the location and called  and Mike answered. “How soon do you need the plane?” he asked.

I said, “Immediately.”

He told me he would have a crew ready by 3:30 and it was now 1:30. He told me to go back to Terminal A, which was a bus ride and tram ride away and wait for a white van which would pick me up in 15 minutes. I rushed to Terminal A and waited five minutes, ten minutes, and fifteen minutes and no white van.

As I looked inside the terminal from the hot August air of outside, long before I had a cell phone, I thought I faintly heard my name being paged. I ran inside and heard the second announcement asking for Steve Boyd to report to the Comair desk. I rushed to the desk and there beside the person paging me was a former student of mine.

She smiled cheerfully and asked, “How are things going, Dr. Boyd?”

I said, “This is not a good time to ask that question.”  She could tell things were a little tough by the expression on my face.

The person who paged me said there was a call from Mike who was chartering the plane for me. He said that Comair had found another plane to substitute and that we would leave at 2:30. It was now after 2:00 and a good fifteen-minute ride back to Terminal C.  He said that they would hold the plane for me if I wanted to go commercial instead of chartering the plane. Of course I was all for that.

I ran back to the bus and as I got to the terminal the Comair manager was waving me inside and a ticket agent had already stamped my boarding pass. I rushed to the plane and found to my chagrin that all the luggage had not been transported and so we waited another 30 minutes before we could depart. I got to Nashville at 3:30, Nashville time, and my son was waiting for me. We made it to picture taking on time and the wedding went off without a hitch.

Later I talked to my former student and she said it was rare for the company to be willing to charter a plane and still rarer for a plane to be found to so quickly substitute for the grounded plane. Usually when that kind of problem occurred the flight was cancelled or you would wait several hours or the next day for a plane to be flown in from another city to take the waiting passengers.

It seems to me that Someone with more authority than Comair wanted me in Nashville to officiate at my son’s wedding, for which I am eternally grateful.

The Power of the Positive

Over several decades I have developed a habit of keeping notes and letters that have special meaning to me. This  letter from a student is one of my all time favorites.

Seven days before I started this course I had made up my mind to make it  my final day. I will always remember the first day of class when you said, ‘this class will change your life.’  I have not entirely understood what you may have meant, but hearing it was just enough.

As I sat on my bed that night something made me believe a complete stranger that maybe my life could change. Instead of ending everything, I fell asleep. I don’t know what would have happened had I not heard someone say that things will change for the better….I just want you to know that what you do changes lives. 

I often talk about the power of positive language. This note convinces me even more that this idea is not theory but reality for all of us.

Share a positive idea with someone today.

Some Things in Life Just Can’t Be Explained

I’m sure we have all had experiences we just cannot explain in any rational way. One of the most vivid memories of my life occurred when I was a counselor at Camp Shiloh, a New Jersey camp for disadvantaged boys from New York City.

During every two-week session, each cabin had to spend one night camping out on a secluded hillside about a mile from the cabins. This was my least favorite part of Camp Shiloh because taking a dozen 13-year-old undisciplined boys a mile from civilization with only one other counselor was not a pleasant task for me. But each session I would dutifully take my turn. We would take wood, kindling, hamburgers, drinks, chips and our sleeping bags and have dinner, games, prayer time, and go to bed.

On one of these trips I was awakened on a beautiful moonlit night because of movement nearby. As I opened my eyes I saw a man dressed in white–like what a baker would wear on the job. His arms were folded and he simply stared. I was too frightened to move and, not knowing what to do, I just acted like I was sleeping as he stood there.

After a while, he simply walked away into the night without saying a word.

I checked around the camp personnel to ask if there was a guard that patrolled the area and I was told there was no such person. No cabins or houses were within a mile or more from the camp proper. No one knew who the man in white might have been.

I’m not sure what I think about guardian angels, but that night on the New Jersey hillside I had a visitor for which there is no explanation.

Meeting Exceptional People

This past week-end Walt Bellamy died. He was 74 years old. If you are not a longtime basketball fan, his name means nothing to you, but he was one of the greatest college and professional basketball players. He not only set many records at Indiana University including averaging nearly 18 rebounds a game, he went on to have a Hall of Fame career in the NBA. In his 14-year career, he averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds a game. For me, his passing was personal. It brought back one of my most vivid teenage memories.Because Branch McCracken, Hall of Fame basketball coach at IU, was recruiting my best friend to play basketball at IU, the whole team was invited to attend an IU game. We sat right next to the raised floor. That was huge for me, but even better was getting to meet the players after the game.

Walt Bellamy

The star of the team was Walt Bellamy, and I got to meet him and have a short conversation. At 6’11” tall, he was the tallest person I had ever been that close to. When I shook his hand, it engulfed my hand and wrist. He was kind and willing to chat with a country kid from southern Indiana.

This was a defining moment in my life as a fan of basketball—especially IU basketball. I became a lifelong fan.

Reading his obituary reminded me of the value of taking opportunities to meet extraordinary people. Even if you don’t have personal contact with that person, watching him or her perform, speak, or play gives you a special time to witness great talent, excellent words of wisdom, and unique personalities. At the least this experience makes for great memories to relive and enjoy.

I remember taking a city bus to downtown Nashville to watch and listen to President Lyndon Johnson. I remember the spot where I stood and listened.

I had a private conversation with Michael Connelly, one of my favorite authors. My wife got to shake hands with President Kennedy and her mother shook hands with President Eisenhower, both when they were working in Washington, D. C. I’ve been in audiences to hear such talented performers as Judy Collins, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Kingston Trio, Toby Keith, and Bob Newhart. I have specific special memories with each experience. Hearing Neil Armstrong read “A Lincoln Portrait” in a program with the Cincinnati Pops was unforgettable and still touching to recall.

Take advantage of every opportunity to meet that famous or successful personality. These experiences enrich your life and leave lasting impressions.



Hit and Walk

I have been approached by the homeless on the sidewalk, in big box stores, and at street intersections, but never before approached in the creative—and scary—technique used by Kim.

My wife and I were leaving a Shell station late at night in a nearby town. I thought I had looked both ways and behind me, yet as I slowly backed away from the parking spot I heard a thump from the back of the car. A friend in the back seat exclaimed, “You hit someone! She’s on the ground.”

I had braked immediately, so I cut the engine and ran to the back of the car. A woman was on the ground writhing in pain and holding her leg. I apologized and asked her where she was hurt.

Her response was, “I hurt all over and especially my leg.”

I said, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”

She said, “No, I’ll walk it off. I’m so sorry. I should have looked. I’m so sorry.”  I insisted on helping her to stand and my wife offered to give her a ride home. She slowly got into the back seat of our car still moaning in pain, but not identifying any particular injury.

Her clothes were ragged and she was not dressed for the cool weather. I asked her if I could stop by a fast food restaurant and buy her a meal.

“No,” she said, “but you could give me money for a meal later. I really don’t feel like eating right now. I just want to lie down.”  I asked her where she lived, and her answer was, “In the woods behind the Marriott.”  I urged her to let us get her some food, and she insisted that she simply wanted to get to the wooded area about a mile from where I had “backed into her.”

By this time I was pretty sure the whole “accident” was bogus, but I carried through on her request and my wife gave her money. I pulled up to the spot she indicated. My wife asked her name and we all shook hands, then she slowly limped into the darkness of the woods.

After my heart rate slowed down from the fright I felt at having hit a pedestrian, I couldn’t help but admire Kim for her creative method of getting money. We debriefed on what had just happened, and our friend agreed that everything didn’t exactly fit with a true accident. I did not feel duped because she obviously needed the money much more than I did, and I’d figured out her angle before I actually gave her money. Her extensive act was worth twenty dollars, and rolling on the pavement probably did hurt her somewhat.

The whole experience motivated me to be even more vigilant in looking for pedestrians as I drive in traffic—especially when backing up at a Shell station!

Remember to “PM”

One of my first jobs as a teenager was working in a shoe store.  The line of shoes was inexpensive, and often the shoes were not well-made or stylish.  They were popular because they were inexpensive.

Perhaps because of lack of stylishness, some shoes were hard to sell.  When a pair of shoes had been in the store without selling for several weeks, the manager would stamp a “PM” on the outside of the box.  This stood for “Push More,” and as a salesman I knew that if I sold a pair of “PM” shoes, I got 25 cents added to my salary.  Since in 1960 I was making 75 cents an hour, that was a nice tip.

When we knew a size of foot of a customer matched one of the specially marked shoebox we made a concerted effort to talk about its advantages to the customer.

I think we can use that notion of “PM” in our personal lives.  Recognize the things in our lives that are most important and put a “PM” label by them.  With each day, decide the “PM”s for that day and live a more productive and pleasant life.

Canoeing Down Elkhorn

When our son, Josh, was growing up, one of our favorite summertime activities was canoeing down Elkhorn Creek near Frankfort, Kentucky, with our dear friend, Dave. This particular occasion was a special one because at the end of the day we were going to camp out along the creek and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area.

The fishing was great and the weather was perfect. The depth of water was just right to guide the canoe through the rocks and rapids even though occasionally we would all jump out and pull the canoe through a particularly shallow section. But there were also deep fishing holes that gave up enough “red-eye” bluegill and small mouth to keep us anticipating the next tug on our lines.

Dave always took a six-pack, and on that day he stored away a second six-pack since we were on a longer trip. In the late afternoon, Dave had exceeded his imbibing limit and was not as steady in guiding the canoe as he usually was. At one crucial bend in the creek, we came to a rapid with a couple of big rocks partially blocking the way. Dave started to maneuver the canoe through the rapids, but his movement was not quick enough and the canoe went sideways, caught between the rocks. We jumped out and waded to shore.

After unloading our supplies, we three sought to loosen the canoe and pull it out. The rapids were too strong, however, and we had to leave it. We hiked back to the road through corn fields and barn lots. As we hitchhiked to our destination for the evening, ironically, the man who gave us a ride had an open bottle beside him in the driver’s seat.

To add insult to injury, the following day when Dave went back with some expert help to pull the canoe from the creek, someone had stolen the canoe. He could see tractor wheel tracks where the canoe had been pulled out. This was not just any canoe; it was a Grumman—the Cadillac of canoes.

Dave had several years earlier taught us how to sit in a canoe and he had a saying he would often repeat: “Man who stands up in canoe has rocks in head.”  Since his inebriation kept him from remembering his own rule, we also learned the hard way to limit his intake of beer on an all-day fishing excursion in a canoe.

Do You Want to Dance?

On a Caribbean cruise last winter, my wife and I were delighted to learn of daily ballroom dancing with live music. Although we are not great dancers, we have been taking lessons for years and thoroughly enjoy the physical exercise, the music, and the people we meet.

I’ll have to admit there are times when I get a little frustrated at my lack of agility and skills and I don’t always have a smile on my face.

I was given a new perspective one night when we were sitting and waiting for the pianist to play the next song. I saw an elderly gentleman pushing a lady (I assume it was his wife) in a wheelchair. I thought they were just passing through. But this was not the case. He moved to a table where he could fit the wheelchair and sat down. The song began and my wife and I got up to dance. A few seconds later this couple was on the dance floor and they were dancing! She was in her wheelchair, smiling, and he was guiding her in the dance steps. Amazingly, they were able to dance in a recognizable manner. I could not resist stopping and staring. We all began applauding.

After that experience, I learned that physical skills are a matter of perspective. In the future I plan to have a more positive view of my limitations.

Let There Be Light!

Until a few years ago, I failed to appreciate the bright lights illuminating stores, streets, and homes in the cities of the United States. Working in Thailand, Malaysia, and Brazil on mission projects over the last decade, I discovered that lights are not as abundant or as bright as they are in our cities.

Here, we go in a Kroger store day or night and the lighting is about the same. Lots of lights, extremely bright. This is not true in similarly busy groceries stores in those countries.

When we were driven down a primary artery in Kuala Lumpur after dark, we first thought there must have been a loss of power because the lights were dim. But we soon realized this is a way of life there. Streets off the main highways are dark in many parts of cities in these countries. Personal safety is at risk if you choose to walk or drive on such streets at night.

When I come home after these projects, I look forward to bright lights and a more comfortable feeling as I walk the streets and drive the interstate highways.

Follow Your Own Advice

One of my most frequent admonitions in my communication seminars is that it never hurts to ask questions for you never know unless you ask. Recently I was checking into the Grove Park Inn to present one of my seminars. There was a gatekeeper stopping all cars and giving them instructions on where to go so that the bellmen could help them and park their cars. I did not want to get that involved in simply parking my car and getting my luggage to my room.

I looked around and saw a parking lot to my right. I wondered why people were not simply turning right and parking in some of the open spaces. When it came my turn and the young man was preparing to give me the same instructions as he had everyone before me, I simply asked, “Is it all right for me to park myself in the parking lot to my right?”

His response was, “Sure, that’s fine.”  I quickly found an empty space, parked my car, and carried my suitcase to check-in. Within minutes I was happily set in my room.

As I was checking in, I found that by parking myself I saved seven dollars. Actually, when I checked out the next day, the lady at the registration desk simply said, “Oh, just forget it. No charge.”

There is a statement in Alice in Wonderland that applies to this story. She said, “I give myself very good advice…but I very seldom follow it. That explains the trouble I’m always in.”  This is one of the few times that I was able to accept my own advice as well as give it.