Author, The Happiest Man in the World: Life Lessons from a Cultural Economist
Africa, Zurich, Paris: February, 2004: It was snowing hard when our plane touched down Wednesday morning at about 6:30 a.m. My next segment of flight needed to take me from Zurich to Paris was at 10 a.m. The snow delayed the earlier flight, but I was early enough to go stand in line for the 7:45 a.m. flight to Paris. The girl took care of my ticket and issued me a boarding card. If I could actually get to Paris on that 7:45 a.m. flight I would have caught up with my original schedule for making my connection with United’s 1 p.m. flight to Washington, D.C. I smiled. I was on my way home and not in Cameroon waiting all night, all day, and half of the next night for my Air France flight to take off from Douala to Paris.
I asked the lady at the desk, when she gave me the boarding pass, if my luggage would make the transfer just fine and she assured me, “No problem.”
Thanks to the snow delay, I was on the early flight that would get me into Paris. There I would go through passport control lines, collect my luggage from the carousel, and check into United.
But, mid-flight between Zurich and Paris, one of the two jet engines on our European-built airplane just conked out!
The Charles DeGaule Airport in Paris would not allow us to continue and land there, so we were required to turn around and go back to Zurich in the middle of the snowstorm. I guess the Paris airport didn’t want the risk of having our “one-engine” plane try to make an emergency landing there.
I had flown so much in so many different airplanes around the world with no possible idea of whether the planes were maintained well or not. I guess the incident was sort of a “reality check” for me that sometimes airplane engines do fail. I was glad that it happened outside the remote places of Congo and Cameroon where we wouldn’t have had many options if the one and only engine on any of those little planes had failed.
In Zurich we completely off-loaded and instead of simply engaging another airplane to take us to Paris, which would have been quite simple, they dumped us back in the terminal. There was only one service desk and the frustrated planeload of people began pushing and shoving and yelling.
One by one, Swiss Air personnel reprocessed each passenger and resorted the entire load of luggage. They tried to put the passengers on any other pre-scheduled flight to Paris during the day. Any passengers who could possibly avoid Paris were encouraged to be rerouted through some other European city. But, my connections were in Paris and Charles DeGaule Airport.
I kept feverishly watching the time. As the attendant was handling my reticketing, I asked if my new flight would get me to Paris in time for my flight to Washington, D.C. I was assured that I had nothing to worry about, but I would still need to collect my luggage at the carousel in Paris before I could check in on United.
“Oh, it will be close,” I kept thinking all the way to Paris on my new flight. But, it wasn’t close at all. I had missed my flight by a long shot. The folks at United told me to go get a hotel because I was going nowhere until 1 p.m. the next day. Finally, I had run out of options.
I found a cheap Ibis Hotel room not far from the airport. As I checked in, I smirked to myself. “I guess God had mercy on me and wanted me to spend the extra night because of the canceled flight in Africa, holed up in Paris, France, instead of Douala, Cameroon. I would have clean sheets instead of dirty blankets, a wonderful warm shower instead of dipping rusty water out of a barrel for my bath, and a fresh French breakfast instead of leftover rice and fish. For what more could I ask? I was thankful!
I knew I would have problems with the logistics of getting the container loads of donated medical goods into the remote areas of Congo and Cameroon. That’s why no one else in the world was trying to do it. But I also knew God was eager for us to help the extremely needy people there and help take hope to the tired and discouraged doctors and staff people in the hospitals we had visited. How was it that I was so fortunate to be chosen to take help and hope to needy people around the world? It had been nearly 20 years since I visited my first needy clinic in Brazil. Now, God had multiplied our obedience and efforts with allowing us to be shipping the necessary medical goods into 95 different countries in the world.
What a privilege I have had to be working with all my energies in the earthly enterprises of God himself. Just imagine the unspeakable experience we will all have together forever in eternity!
© Dr. James W. Jackson
Permissions granted by Winston-Crown Publishing House
Dr. James W. Jackson often describes himself as "The Happiest Man in the World." A successful businessman, award-winning author and humanitarian, Jackson is also a renowned Cultural Economist and international consultant, helping organizations and governments to apply sound economic principals to the transformation of culture so that everyone is "better off."
As the founder of Project C.U.R.E., Dr. Jackson traveled to more than one hundred fifty countries assessing healthcare facilities, meeting with government leaders and "delivering health and hope" in the form of medical supplies and equipment to the world's most needy people. Literally thousands of people are alive today as a direct result of the tireless efforts of Project C.U.R.E.'s staff, volunteers and Dr. Jackson.