Tag Archives: hospitality



From a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15, written following 9-11:

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic.

All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain.

As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”

No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland.
He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately — no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.

We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, Newfoundland, to have it checked out.
We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that’s nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM …. that’s 11:00 AM EST.

There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the
world that had taken this detour on their way to the US.

After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason.”

Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the US. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay put.

The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air crafts. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane.

In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were US commercial jets.
Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC.

People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada . Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm.
We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.
We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning.

Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.

Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing.And they were true to their word.

Fortunately, we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel.

We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander!

We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the US airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.

We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.

Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the “plane people.” We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.
Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.
What we found out was incredible…..
Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers.
Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.
ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the “guests.”

Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged.

Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day.

During the day, passengers were offered “Excursion” trips.

Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went for hikes in the local forests.

Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.

Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.

In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.
Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully.
It was absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time.

Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling.

Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.
And then a very unusual thing happened.

One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said “of course” and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days.

He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers.
He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.

“He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte.

He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!

“The gentleman, a MD from Virginia , promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.

As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.



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Saint Brigid – a poem (attributed)

A wonderful poem attributed to Saint Brigid tells of the things she most wished for. If it was not composed by the Saint herself, than surely by someone who loved her and knew well her nature:

I would wish a great lake of ale for the King of Kings; 
I would wish the family of heaven to be drinking it throughout life and time. 
I would wish the men of Heaven in my own house; 
I would wish vessels of peace to be given to them. 
I would wish joy to be in their drinking; 
I would wish Jesu to be here among them. 
I would wish the three Marys of great name; 
I would wish the people of heaven from every side. 
I would wish to be a rent-payer to the Prince; the way if I was in trouble He would give me a good blessing.

It is said that the Lord would grant Brigid anything she would ask, and that what she desired was always the same-“to satisfy the poor, to banish every hardship, and to save every sorrowful man.” It seems that in her love for others Saint Brigid truly forgot herself and allowed the loving providence of God to sustain her.



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Finding God

A legend is told of how the emperor Trajan asked a Jewish Rabbi about God being present everywhere. “If he is everywhere, why don’t mortal eyes see him? I want to see him.” The Rabbi replied that “God is everywhere, but no mortal eye can see him.” Trajan was not satisfied with the answer. He insisted that the Rabbi must have a better way of explaining the teaching about God’s presence.

So the Rabbi brought the emperor outside in the noonday sun. “Now look straight at the sun.” “I can’t. The light blinds me.” “You see. You can’t bear the light of one of God’s creations. How do you think you could look directly at the Creator? If the sun blinds your eyes, would not the light of the creator annihilate all of you?”

The teaching about God’s presence has been used to help people strengthen their moral behaviour, do a better job in their profession and develop the arts of hospitality.

  • The scientist, Linnaeus, wrote over his door, “Live innocently. God is here.”
  • The Greek sculptor, Phidias, created a reclining statue of Theseus. His patrons told him the statue would be placed up in a prominent place in the Temple. Then they noticed the back of the statue looked as polished and perfect as the front. “Why did you waste your time and energy on the part of the statue no one would ever see?” “People may not see it,” said he. “But the gods will.”


The Old Testament states that no one can look into the face of God and live. At the same time, the Bible teaches that the mystery of God’s presence can be experienced in many ways. The heavens make known the glory of God. The masterpiece of creation discloses the divine artist. Just as tracks in the forest give us some idea of the presence of the animal pursued, so also the traces of the divine in the cosmos open our eyes to his presence.

For the biblical mind, one of the easiest ways to sense God’s presence is through hospitality. For example, Abraham once received a guest who told him that his aged wife would bear a child to be named Isaac. The stranger, to whom he showed hospitality, turned out to be God.

Jesus tells us this day that a cup of water given to a stranger is given to him. Hospitality both to those in need, to strangers and to those whom we call friends is the easiest way to get a glimpse of Christ.

No simpler method of practising the presence of God can be found than to serve others with welcome hospitality. The Catholics of Austria like to say, “The guest is Christ.” Thus these simple acts of kindness both make others feel better and also afford us the basic possibility of the religious experience of God.


Maybe we are not expert at reading the hints of God’s presence in nature and history. Perhaps we have no time for that. But we are always near people to whom we can show a little courtesy. Don’t bother looking at the sun. It hurts your eyes. Take a look at the people around you. The Son of God is there waiting to be cared for. He won’t hurt your eyes. Quite the opposite. He will warm your heart.

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Where was Jesus born – from a blog by Lindsay Louise Biddle, 26 November 2012

The house where Jesus was born
We know the story inside and out: In order to participate in a census Joseph and Mary, who are pregnant, travel from Nazareth to the city of David, Bethlehem, because Joseph is a descendant of the house and family of David. While there the time comes for Mary to deliver her child, and she gives birth to her firstborn, a son, whom she wraps in swaddling clothes and lays in a manager, because there is …
God knows how long this scene has been consigned to “no room,” “a stable-place,” “a lowly cattle shed,” according to some current hymns. And we’ve seen it re-enacted, year after year, with individuals dressed in bathrobes knocking on the door of the “inn” only to hear the “innkeeper” tell the tired and weary travelers, “Sorry, there are no more vacancies.” At this point the “innkeeper’s wife” usually appears, as either an antagonistic fish-wife (one skit describes her as “a tough, rough-talking ‘broad’”) or a hard-working, compassionate midwife. After a brief squabble between the innkeeper and his wife, they agree to let the visibly pregnant and desperate couple stay out in the “barn.” At least they’ll have a roof over their heads, lots of straw for the birthing, and a manger—an animal feeding trough—for a crib. Just like the Bible says, right?!
The Greek word in the second chapter of Luke that is traditionally translated as “inn” in most of our English-language Bibles is kataluma which means, literally, “to put down,” as in “to unyoke” beasts of burden, “to rest” on a journey, or “to put up” for the night. Kataluma is also in the twenty-second chapter of Luke, when Jesus instructs the disciples to make arrangements for his final meal with them: They are to go to a certain house and say to the owner that their teacher asks, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” The house owner will then show them a big upper room where they are to get things ready. Thus kataluma refers to guest space in a home, not an “inn” (Greek pando) like that in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:34), much less a “hotel” in the modern sense of rented accommodations.
What does this mean for the birth of Jesus, then, if Mary lays her child in a manger, because there is no more room in theguest room?
It means Jesus is born in a traditional Middle Eastern village home that is overflowing with so many guests they all cannot be lodged upstairs. Far from being rejected by strangers, Joseph and Mary are welcomed most certainly by kinfolk and join other relatives who have journeyed to their hometown for the occasion.
Like every other poor Palestinian child, Jesus is born in the lower level of a single-room dwelling that shelters livestock as well as several generations of a lively family. One raised end is reserved for the elder members, while younger members and children spread out from there and utilize the roof space—open or enclosed. The lower end is where the animals are housed overnight and fed from mangers. The house is cleaned daily from top to bottom, from the human living quarters down to the lowly animal quarters. The birth of babies—humans as well as animals—takes place in the area of the house reserved for such bodily functions, where there is clean straw and water, where a feeding crib doubles as a sleeping crib, and with plenty of female relatives to assist with the birth.
A warm welcome home portrays a very different nativity scene than the cold lonely place out back. The former more accurately reflects the Code of Hospitality proclaimed throughout scripture, while the latter is a myth built on a mistranslation. And there is no “stable” in either story of Jesus’ birth.
Is this myth simply a mistake? Or do we need to read rejection into the birth of Christ? Like some of us in the USA need our presidents to be from humble beginnings and born in a log cabin?
After visiting parts of Europe—from which my ancestors fled in order to escape religious persecution, poverty, famine, military inscription, servitude, imprisonment—and after tracing parts of the Oregon Trail—along which my ancestors dirtied the water, finished off the wild game, scared away the herds, and brought small pox, guns, and territorial instincts—I have to admit that I am an Adult Child of People Who Left. People who kept on moving, leaving behind whatever made them unhappy or unfulfilled. I come from a tribe who need to feel rejected in order to believe they’ve picked themselves up by their bootstraps, started their lives from scratch and made something of themselves, staked their claim—on land that wasn’t for claiming in the first place.
What does this mean for me, then, to lay down my ancestral myth of rejection and to own up to the truth of God’s hospitality?
Glasgow, Scotland
Words are formed by experiences, and words inform our experiences. Words also transform life and the world. I am a writer and Presbyterian minister who grew up in the 1960’s in the segregated South of the United States. I’ve lived in Alaska, the Washington, DC area, and Minnesota. Since 2004 I’ve lived in Glasgow, Scotland, where I enjoy working on my second novel and serving churches that are between one thing and another. I advocate for the full inclusion of all people in the church and in society, whatever our genders or sexual orientations. Every body matters.


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