Stranded … an odyssey parable

Seven people stepped onto a boat for a scenic three-hour tour in the South Pacific.

Disaster struck, they became shipwrecked on an unknown island. For three years, their television series — Gilligan’s Island — humorously documented their adventures and misadventures, as the castaways explored every possibility to escape their water fenced prison.

After waiting an extra day, due to the wind, Helen and I were elated when our plane finally departed Gander, Newfoundland, carrying us on our three-and-a-half-hour flight to Toronto, Ontario, via Halifax.

Early Tuesday evening, among 200 passengers, we taxied to our takeoff position at Halifax airport. The 100 plus km winds buffeted us mercilessly and the torrential rains seemed to threaten our very souls.

After waiting several hours, the pilot announced our flight was cancelled. A collective sigh of relief filled the plane; then reality hit us — we were stranded in Halifax.

In Halifax, we did not know from where the winds came or where they were headed, but we knew where we were and where we were not going.

We found shelter in an inn. Wednesday and Thursday dragged by as our flight was rescheduled ad nauseum. Finally, late Thursday afternoon, our plane lifted heavenward and winged its way to Toronto.

Our 210-minute flight became a 3,300-minute odyssey.

I thought about Gilligan and Jesus.

Jesus observed everyday happenings, then produced parables to teach about life and our relationship with God.

He watched his mother baking. The yeast, she explained, would permeate the flour and water and transform the ingredients into bread. Years later Jesus would compare his followers to yeast, suggesting they too would permeate and change the lives of countless people.

Jesus observed children playing a game in the city marketplace. He noted some participated while others refused to join in. People, he told his disciples, would have similar reaction to his gospel. Most would accept immediately, others would offer excuses not to believe and some would totally ignore the good news … totally.

He was right.

So, what messages did we garner from being stranded in Halifax?

Firstly, weather conditions can disrupt the best laid human plans. However, we can embrace the opportunity to learn, enjoy and understand how each piece of God’s wonderful world interacts.

Secondly, nature is most powerful. This time the wind controlled us. From time immemorial, the wind (spirit of God) has guided, pushed or even forced people to pursue a certain direction.

Jesus used the wind metaphor when he advised Nicodemus of his need to be born again. “The wind blows where it will … you hear the sound it makes … you do not know where it comes from or where it’s going … so it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

In Halifax, we did not know from where the winds came or where they were headed, but we knew where we were and where we were not going.

Thirdly, communities form when people are stranded. Waiting to register at the hotel, we shared our stories. An executive delivered his keynote speech to a conference in another province from his Halifax hotel room. A couple heading south for the winter was delayed several days before basking in the summer sunshine.

Maybe we caught a glimpse of what Jesus meant — when two or three are gathered together, I am there among you.

Fourthly, we often need help as we journey life’s pathways. The good Samaritans we encountered in Halifax were dressed in Nova Scotian tartan — known as the “Tartan Team”. Over a hundred volunteers assist passengers and visitors by answering questions, giving directions and even providing cots and blankets for stranded travellers when hotels have no vacancies.

We need more of these happy, helpful, courteous, caring and kind people in every institution.

Whatever life sends our way, we should look for its silver lining and learn the message of the experience.