Six months ago I booked the airfare for our “once-in-a-lifetime” cruise vacation we just shared with dozens of Hearts at Home couples and families. As I took inventory of the frequent flyer miles Mark and I had earned over the past ten years, I realized that I was going to be able to fly everyone in our family to the cruiseport in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on frequent flyer points! After several hours of sitting in front of the computer screen, I had successfully booked airfare for all 8 of us for only $10 each! You can imagine that I was doing the happy dance!

Last Friday, we began our adventure. Due to frequent flyer limitations, the 8 of us were on two different airline carriers and on five separate flights! All of our travels went well except for my dear husband, Mark…

Evan and Erica were scheduled to leave on a 6am flight on United Airlines. Mark was flying United, too, but he wasn’t scheduled to leave until 4pm. We decided it would be worth a try to fly standby on Evan and Erica’s flight. The three of them rose at 4am and arrived at the airport before 5am. The 6am flight was delayed and eventually cancelled and Mark worked with the kids and an airline agent to get them on another flight and on their way. Unfortunately for Mark, that meant standby wasn’t an option.

Mark returned home by 8:30am feeling a little disappointed. There wasn’t time for much conversation as Austin, Kolya, and I were getting ready to head to the airport for our 10am flight on American Airlines. He drove us to the airport and then spent the day finishing up some last minute details.

At 3pm he headed to the airport for his 4pm flight only to find that it had just been cancelled! He began working with a United agent to find out his options. He was told that the only option was a flight that would leave 24 hours later. Obviously, since our cruise was departing in about 18 hours, that wasn’t an option. This agent was not nearly as accomodating as the agent he’d worked with in the morning when Evan and Erica’s flight was cancelled. After nearly 30 minutes he realized he’d hit a wall. The agent told him the only way he could get there in time was to purchase the only flight left for the day on Delta airlines. It would cost $647. So much for my $80 happy dance.

Mark called me and I could hear the frustration in his voice. By this time his whole family was in Florida and he was still at home! “Jill, the Delta flight leaves in just a few minutes. It’s my only option to fly out of here tonight.” “Buy the ticket,” I responded. “We have no other option.” He purchased the ticket, ran through security and got to the gate just as they were closing the door.

As the agent booked the ticket on Delta, they noted that we had quite a few frequent flyer points. The agent told Mark, “Since you are a noted Delta customer and you’ve already had a rough day, I’m going to give you complimentary first class.” Mark decided that was a nice gift. He called to tell me he was on the plane and that there wasn’t first class on the first leg of the flight (the plane was too small), but he would have complimentary first class on the second leg of the flight.

He arrived in Atlanta just in time to run to the gate for the connecting flight. He hadn’t had dinner yet, but he’d been told that a full meal was served in first class so he didn’t worry about grabbing a sandwich.

Once he boarded the plane, he found his seat, as promised, in first class. He’d never been in first class before and was noticing the extra cushy seats and extended legroom. The flight attendant service was almost immediate. “Wow,” he thought, “It’s been a rough day, but this sure is nice.” Soon a mother and a two little girls boarded the flight. The mother set her belongings in a seat two rows in front of Mark. Unseen to Mark, she also put one of her daughters in the seat next to her. Then she proceeded to Mark’s row and told her little four year old daughter, “Honey, you have to sit here next to this man. You’ll be ok.” The little girl seemed near tears but she followed her mom’s instructions.

Then dad boarded the plane. He spoke to his wife and then reassured his daughter that she would be ok sitting next to Mark. Mark offered to the man that he would trade seats with the wife so she could sit by the little girl and that’s when dad informed him that mom was already sitting with a younger child. The father briefly explained that the airlines had messed up their reservation and they were scattered all over the plane–in fact his seat was in row 40.

For a brief moment, the reality of the situation settled on Mark. As the father was starting to head toward his seat in the back, Mark rose and caught him. “I’ll take your seat, sir. You can sit up here with your daughter.” The man protested and said that he couldn’t do that. Mark insisted and said, “Your daughter doesn’t want to sit by me—she needs her dad. I’ll sit in your seat.”

With that my weary, hungry husband gathered his carry-on luggage, and began heading toward row 40. His first class experience had lasted all of about 2 minutes. Yet, Mark later stated that was the best part of his day. It was the part of the day that had the most joy in it. As he walked through the rest of the first class section, one man grabbed his arm and said, “That was an honorable thing to do.”

Indeed God scored points that night. In fact, I’m guessing that’s going to be one of the best sermons my pastor-husband will ever preach–and he never even had to speak a word. His life…his choices gave God glory and showed God’s love that night.

I’m proud of my man. And someday, when frequent flyer points don’t matter anymore, the heavenly points he scored just might make a difference in eternity for someone somewhere who either witnessed his actions or will hear about the story and be moved by the generosity of it that is so much like Christ.

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